June 2, 2023


Just Do Travel

Proposed hotel in Vilano Beach causing controversy among residents

The hotel is proposed for the beach end of the street partially where the Magic Beach Motel currently stands. It will have 194 rooms, a spa, restaurant and retail.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A new hotel proposed in Vilano Beach is upsetting many residents because they say it’s too big for the small town.

“It’s quaint. It’s quirky,” Carol Anderson described Vilano Beach. 

Anderson and her husband Joe live a few miles from Vilano Road, the center of the tiny town.  The road is just a few blocks long, running from the beach to the Intra-coastal Waterway.

“We’ve loved it here,” Carol Anderson nodded.

Two sizable, new hotels have recently popped up on either side of Vilano Road. An even bigger project is proposed for the beach end of the street. Part of the property is where the vintage Magic Beach Motel currently stands.

The plans call for 194 hotel rooms, a restaurant, spa, and retail space. 

“The size of the lot does not support the size of the hotel,” Joe Anderson told First Coast News. 

The Andersons and many others who oppose the scale of the project say it simply doesn’t fit in with the vision of the Vilano Town Center. According to a Vilano Town Center webpage, that vision is to “maintain the small beach town community character.”

Residents are also concerned about how will the loading dock impact traffic. According to the developer’s plans, the loading dock would be just about a block from the base of the Vilano Bridge. That’s an area that can get pretty congested.

First Coast News reached out to Key International, the developer, for comment.  

“We have created a large setback to allow for easy in and out of trucks,” said Colin Gorsuch, VP of Development for Key International. 

He added delivery times will be limited.

Residents are also concerned about the added strain on the small private utility and water company.

“When a bad storm comes, [North Beach Utilities] flood,” Anderson said. “We’re out of water. They’re going to service another 194 toilets flushing in addition to the Hyatt and the Holiday Inn? What is that going to do to the residents?”

A 2019 document from the North Beach Utilities company states new homes and new hotels will impact the utility’s ability to dispose of wastewater within 5 to 10 years.

“We have confirmation letters from the county and North Beach Utilities that validate the fact that the development plans are well within the required capacity boundaries,” Gorsuch commented.

The biggest concern though for many residents is they feel ignored by St. Johns County staff, saying staff has not been forthcoming with information.

“Just answer the questions,” Breau Alexander said. “They are valid questions. They are important.”

“We’re not trying to fight the developers,” Anderson added. “We’re trying to understand how it can work for everybody.”

The proposed development is on the agenda for Tuesday’s St. Johns County Commission meeting.