ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- St. Johns County is having another growth spurt.
It leads the First Coast with the number building permits.
The county has exploded in population in the past decade with new housing developments popping up.
However, there is a portion of St. Johns County that remains remote: Flagler Estates.
There, you'll find long country roads, culverts along every street, and every lot is an acre and a quarter.
"They call me the mayor," Joyce DuPont chuckled. She and her late husband, Buzz, helped make Flagler Estates what it is today. "My husband would clear the lots and I pulled the permits and drew the lot plans for anyone that was putting in a mobile home," she explained.
That was in the late 1990s.
However back in the 1960s when a group of brothers who owned the land didn't want to farm it, they sold it to developers who started selling the lots to out-of-staters starting in 1971.
"They used to bring the northerners down," DuPont recalled, "and put them in an airplane and fly them over and say, 'Now, if you want, there's a lot right there for sale.'"
Four decades later, many lots are not developed. Flagler Estates is about an hour southwest of Jacksonville, east of Palatka.
The nearly 10,000 thousand acres are all plotted out, straddling the St. Johns County and Flagler County line.
DuPont and her husband built the Buzz Mart. It's complete with gas pumps, boiled peanuts and the local gossip on the front porch. It was the only store for 13 years in the area until the Dollar General opened this year.
"You don't get a lot of hustle and bustle out here," said roofing contractor Clem Shadwick. He moved to Flagler Estates in 1995 for the quiet lifestyle.
"A lot of people don't understand this type of living. We have bugs. We get flooded," Shawick said.
There are some abandoned homes here, but some people believe this area is on the verge of growth. They think that the population in nearby Palm Coast will expand and spread over here into Flagler Estates.
Brandon Seymour just moved from Palm Coast a year ago. He's a St. Augustine firefighter.
"I think it's great. It gives you a little bit of elbow room out here," Seymour described. "Hard working people. Middle class."
He admits -- it's not perfect.
"I know there's some petty crime and some problems in the back end of the neighborhood that gives the area a little bit of a bad name sometimes," Seymour said, "but for every one bad house, there are ten good places out here."
But growth on the empty 1,900 lots in the Flagler County side is unlikely for now.
Flagler County is not issuing building permits for its section of Flagler Estates because on that side there are no utilities nor road maintenance, and the area is susceptible to flooding.
But on the St. Johns County side, there are folks and Shadwick said,
"If you don't know them, you know their face."
There's between 2,000 and 3,000 people, and DuPont knows many of them.
She laughed again.
For the people who call Flagler Estates home, country life continues.
"It's a small town in itself," DuPont summed it up.
First Coast News