Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend $630,000 to obtain the development rights for several acres west of Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville.
The deal is viewed as a way to restrict the amount of future development within the neighboring Mayport Village and as a defense against potential military downsizing in the next round of the federal process known as "Base Realignment and Closure," which could occur in 2017.
"We don't know what is going to happen in '17. That's really speculative," said Rocky McPherson, vice president of military and defense programs at Enterprise Florida, the state's public-private jobs recruitment agency. "But we don't want to have a development that's impinging upon the ability of the base to do its mission. And then when people start looking at bases and say, 'that's a problem,' we want to avoid that."
Mayport, employing about 10,700 military and civilian personnel, was last reported — in 2006 — to have a $1.8 billion-a-year economic impact on Northeast Florida.
The base is home to 17 ships and four squadrons, according to state records.
State Cabinet records note that incompatible development, as well as noise or pollution complaints, could make any of Florida's military bases vulnerable to closure.
Under the deal, the development rights for 5.85-acres along the St. Johns River will be transferred from the Jacksonville Port Authority to the state and monitored by the U.S. Department of the Navy.
The deal doesn't prohibit future residential or commercial development.
"There are height restrictions, there are lighting restrictions," McPherson said. "They can build things that are compatible with the Navy's use of that base."
The land has been appraised at $700,000, but state records note that if the land was sold for commercial and industrial use, the asking price could be substantially higher.
"Both the location of Mayport Village and the revised overlay regulations may prove to be attractive to developers," staff records said. "As such, it is likely that interests for this area will continue. Eventually, new residential development is expected and poses an operational risk to NS Mayport."
Money for the deal comes from nearly $7.5 million that the state Legislature put in the budget in 2014 for non-conservation purchases outside military bases.
The state is negotiating for land or development rights for parcels next to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and Naval Support Activity Panama City.
Another 64 sites have also been identified next to military bases across Florida that could eventually be targeted for similar deals.