Zoning a hangup for retail space; A WORK IN PROGRESS; Plans for the property near Craig airport face a redo.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority and a developer likely will redraft plans for retail space near Craig airport after the authority's board unanimously denied a proposal Monday.

Equity Development Group LLC has been planning to build a strip mall anchored by a drug store on airport property near the intersection of St. Johns Bluff and Monument Road in Arlington.

According to authority documents, leasing 4.84 acres to the developer would generate $115,000 annually for the authority. The money would represent a 10.9 percent return on investment.

The problem with the deal lies in zoning.

The 4.84 acres is part of a nearly 11-acre parcel that would allow office buildings, but not retail. The authority agreed to lease the full plot in September 2006, but city officials said the rezoning necessary to open retail stores was contingent upon the authority placing a 6.1-acre chunk aside for permanent conservation.

That trims down both development possibilities and potential profits for the authority, which anticipated $183,470 annually for the full 11 acres - almost $70,000 more than Monday's lease estimate.

"This is a work in progress," said authority spokesman Michael Stewart. He added that Monday's vote doesn't kill the deal but will push the authority's staff to brainstorm ways to get more out of the land.

Board member Jack Demetree, who has been critical of the reduced leasing potential, said he thinks the authority could have done more to court developers who'd be able to do more with the land.

"It's not like we put up a sign saying the land was available," he said.

Stewart said it would be bad practice to look for another developer during talks with Equity Development. Although loading the land with office buildings could reap bigger lease payments, Stewart said office space developers have not approached the authority.

"All of these things are market-driven," he said.

david.hunt@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4025


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