The Branan Field Plan is an innovative, smart-growth plan for the north central part of the County between Orange Park and Middleburg. County Commissioners realized in 1997 that the completion of Branan Field Road through North Central Clay county to Jacksonville would transform this sleepy, rural corner of the County into a growth magnet. It was obvious that growth would also be spurred by Cecil Commerce Center, a former military base-turned business park, located in fast-growing Westside Jacksonville, just north of the Clay County line.
The County adopted a conceptual Sector Plan in 1998, in June of 2003 adopted the Branan Field Master Plan, and in May of 2004 adopted land development regulations for the plan area. The process included over 30 public meetings and hands-on workshops, aided by the participation of hundreds of citizens, developers, and design professionals. Through this process Clay County intends to avoid the trap of piecemeal development and sprawl. The plan actually reduces the intensities and densities from the approved Comprehensive Plan Map, and lays out a 25-year plan for future growth. The plan for Branan Field creates a vision of how the County will plan and manage growth in the area. To be financially feasible, the Plan includes an Adequate Public Facilities component that sets aside land for through roads, schools, parks, libraries, and fire protection facilities.
The plan allows for approximately 11,600 new dwelling units (approximately 4,630 dwelling units currently exist). Multi-family developments will be allowed within the Activity and Community Center land use districts, and also around Neighborhood Centers within the Master Planned Community and Traditional Neighborhood districts. Location and design of the Activity Centers was particularly important in the process, as Clay County is trying to establish an employment base to capture the 60% of its workers who commute to Jacksonville every workday. Business district will be attractively designed with an emphasis in landscaping, low signs, and architectural controls.
Three types of residential neighborhoods will be established: rural residential areas containing between one dwelling unit per five acres and one unit per acre; master-planned communities with an overall gross density of three dwelling units per acre; and traditional neighborhoods, with an overall gross density of five dwelling units per acre. All developments will be designed to allow for ease of movement by foot and bicycle to parks, schools, shopping, and work.
The area includes 4,640 acres of contiguous wetland systems, and will connect many of these wetlands and adjacent uplands into a system of greenways known as the Primary Conservation Network (PCN). The value of the PCN as an environmental resource is found in the fact that it connects the 20,000-acre Jennings State Forest to the west of Branan Field to the conservation lands of Little Black Creek, located east of Branan Field. The environmental plan calls for wildlife crossings and an environmental management plan for the PCN.