Build Rivertown Schools
Build Rivertown Schools
As we all know, schools surrounding Rivertown are about to hit crisis mode. As a result, Rivertown will now be rezoned and split between three schools and the residents are not happy. Before the zoning changes were confirmed, our petition to keep Rivertown united had garnered almost 600 signatures. Now that the completion of the new K-8 NN has been postponed another year, the rezoning is only a temporary solution. With the current rate at which our neighborhood is growing, NN will be over capacity upon completion. The fact is that NN is not enough. We need our Rivertown schools now.
Since the zoning proposals were announced, residents have done some research and according to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) found in the Rivertown Community DRI, Mattamy and the CDD, with approval from the St. Johns County School Board, are responsible for building our Rivertown schools.
On February 24, 2006, St. Joe and the St. Johns County School board entered into an agreement known as the Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU. In short, the MOU outlines how the developer, with agreement from the School Board, is permitted and responsible for building school(s) within Rivertown.
“St. Joe and the school board desire to make provisions for the construction of two public schools as either a public middle school, public elementary school or public k-8 school within the Rivertown DRI to accommodate the influx of school children that will be anticipated to occur from the Rivertown DRI on an accelerated schedule to avoid adverse impacts to existing school facilities.”
On December 30, 2013, St. Joe sold the Rivertown development to Mattamy. According to the sales contract, Mattamy inherited this MOU from St. Joe. Page 20, Number 14, Site Obligations, states:
“seller has not entered into any agreement except the Development Order; the Rivertown Planned Unit Development zoning ordinance, which is St. Johns County ordinance NO. 2005-100, as amended by Ordinance NO. 2010-49 (“PUD”); that certain Memorandum of Understanding between seller and the St. Johns County School Board dated February 24, 2006 related to the school mitigation; St. Johns River Water Management District permits; and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits that would subject the Real Property to any condition or obligation to any governmental entity or other person requiring the owner or any transfer thereof to donate or transfer land, money or other property or to make off-site public improvements.”
According to the MOU, Mattamy donates 3 sites for schools and “either the owner of the community or a Community Development District will cause public schools to be constructed on 2 of the school sites." The Rivertown CDD will issue bonds for said schools to be built and the school board will either lease the schools or make payments to bonds with funds identified from taxes through a School Lease Purchase Agreement. The Memorandum of Understanding states that Mattamy, through the CDD, builds the K-8 when RT generates 450 students. Then, once RT generates 1,200 students, Mattamy, through the CDD, builds an elementary school and the K-8 becomes a middle school. The third lot is land donated to the school board and the school board/ county is responsible to build the third school. SJC has only been deeded one 15 acre Rivertown lot so far. The number of Rivertown students has well exceeded 450 students, our surrounding schools have reached crisis mode with FCA 150% over capacity (2225 students currently) and there are no current plans to build a school here. Even with the proposed zoning changes, FCA will be around 129% over capacity and that is just for the next year.
The MOU is mentioned dozens of times in multiple amended DRI’s throughout the years. In a DRI amendment dated July 29, 2019, printed on Mattamy Homes “Rivertown” letterhead:
Page 25 of Master Development plan (part of the PUD)
9. Schools: “The owner previously provided the site for the development of Bartram Trail High School. The owner will donate three additional school sites, at locations agreed to by the owner and the St. Johns County School board. The school parcels are anticipated to be located near community recreation facilities to allow for shared use.” … “The owner or CDD shall cause schools to be constructed on two of the school sites, consistent with the Memorandum of agreement between the owner and the St. Johns county school board. …Development of school sites shall be in compliance with the MOU between the owner and the St . Johns County School Board, including amendments thereto.”
And From Rivers Edge II CDD meeting, dated March 11, 2021:
"The Developer and the county school board have also entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) under which the developer or one or more community development districts will cause 2 public schools to be constructed on two of the school sites in the Development. The MOU sets forth that a k-8 school will be constructed in the Development in sufficient time to open when projections by the county school board indicate that such schools will be occupied by 450 students generated from within Development. The MOU further provides that the elementary school will be constructed in the Development in sufficient time to open when predictions by the county school board indicate that such school will be occupied by at least 1200 students generated from within the development. Upon opening the elementary school, the k-8 school will be converted to a middle school. The MOU further requires the developer to use all reasonable efforts to cause one or more community development districts established for the development to issue bonds for school construction in an amount sufficient to construct each school and in sufficient time to meet the deadlines established in the MOU.”
“While the information herein, provides for a summary of the MOU, nothing in the MOU, however, is intended to limit the financial mechanisms available to either the community development district or the county school board, or to prevent the parties and the community development distinct from entering into different arrangements to achieve the overall objective of the MOU. The county school board previously entered into similar MOU’s with developers and community development districts. In each case to date, the County school board elected to construct and find the schools on its own. While there is no assurance that the construction and funding of the schools for the Development will be addressed in a similar manner, the Developer and the county school board continue to have ongoing discussions regarding the actual manner and timing in which the schools will be funded and constructed.”
If Mattamy and Rivers Edge CDD had, in fact, been in contact with the St. Johns County School board regarding the MOU, we would not be in this school overcrowding crisis. The building of Rivertown Schools solves both of the problems faced by the St. Johns County School Board - being at max borrowing capacity and no long term solution to the overcrowding of area schools. If this MOU would have come to light sooner, the zoning issues we face would not exist.
Rivertown needs its own schools in addition to NN. Either Shearwater or Rivertown will be split for NN, and clearly, Shearwater should stay together because it is THEIR neighborhood school. Even with the completion of NN, our surrounding schools will still be at capacity and Rivertown will still be divided. Fulfillment of this MOU would generate revenue for Mattamy, help the school board secure more funding to borrow and pay back in the near future, and surrounding schools can get much needed relief from overcrowding. Further, all neighborhoods can remain at their neighborhood schools and every neighborhood, including Rivertown can remain united.
Here are some many reasons why Rivertown needs its own school:
— We have special geographical land boundaries that make us a unique, self contained neighborhood.
— Even with the completion of NN, the children of Rivertown cannot attend one school all together. We are the largest neighborhood in the area and have the numbers to justify our own school.
— The county will save money from bussing. Currently, some Rivertown buses to FCA do two and three runs. With rezoning, we will have 3 schools worth of buses on the roads, and an additional bus for POA special needs for those not zoned for Cunningham Creek.
— Smaller neighborhoods surrounding FCA and POA can stay at their neighborhood schools and put down roots - no more zone changes, no bussing
— A school here wouldn’t affect traffic that much, we are contained to the neighborhood, as most residents can walk or ride their bike.
—All schools would be less crowded = safer, allow school choice, happier teachers and staff, and better serve the children in each school.
Mattamy is an international company with a net worth of 8 billion dollars, a company that has capitalized monetarily on the promise to provide neighborhood schools to Rivertown residents and future residents. It WAS and still IS their main selling point. According to these documents, Mattamy, with the cooperation of the School Board and commissioners, has an obligation to follow through on promises made to everyone who purchased a home in Rivertown and to the students of the North West quadrant of SJC. Rivertown has generated well over the 450 student marker to have the K-8. Our Rivertown students cannot fit all together in any surrounding school, not even at NN when completed. The time has come to follow through with promises made. The families of Rivertown deserve the schools they were promised. We also deserve honesty, transparency, and a seat at the table of these important discussions regarding our community, our students, and our neighborhood. Bringing this public we feel will help keep all players accountable to do the right thing and push this through as quickly as possible.