In a Sunday morning e-mail from Historic City News reader Kathy Schirmacher, the local news desk received unconfirmed bad news for North City residents that the building department of the City of St Augustine has issued a permit allowing the construction of a controversial 7-Eleven convenience store and gas station at 179 San Marco Avenue.
The extended holiday weekend has closed those city offices until tomorrow, Tuesday, September 2nd; however, in an e-mail from former mayor George Gardner, The St Augustine Report says that Vice-Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline heard about the permit approval on Friday from Assistant City Attorney, Isabelle Lopez.
The combination of sources, although still unofficial, is deemed reliable. However, we are unable to publish a copy of the permit this morning because the offices are closed and the city public affairs director, Paul Williamson, made no announcement about the contentious permit.
Speaking for the Nelmar Terrace Neighborhood Association, Vice President Melinda Rakoncay, who has been actively involved in protesting approval of the project, is quoted to say that her fellow neighbor’s hope is for the Florida Department of Transportation to step in and halt construction.
During the March 24, 2014 St Augustine City Commission meeting, represented by local attorney James Whitehouse, the developer appealed an earlier denial by the city’s Historic Architectural Review Board based on a determination by the city’s Architectural Review Official.
Whitehouse argued to a four-member-present commission, that the Review Board erred when they upheld the Review Official’s determination; but, in a rare twist, the commission deadlocked — Commissioner Roxanne Horvath and Commissioner Donald Crichlow siding with the developer while Mayor Joe Boles and Vice-Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline sided with the lower Board.
The official, then Planning and Building Director Mark Knight, held that the city’s entry corridor rules require that driveways through curb cuts on San Marco Avenue must be no wider than 24′ — 7-Eleven had asked for 30′.
Whitehouse told the commission at that time that he had conferred with his client and they were willing to modify the plans; indicating that the developer would “make-do” with the 24′ width requirement and comply fully with the entrance corridor guidelines. He asked that the commission remand the application, with modifications.
Whitehouse told Historic City News that the next step was to get letters from FDOT that they will approve 24′ driveways, and then resubmit with the appropriate documents. That was done on August 1, 2014.