John Valdes, a building contractor specializing in historic restoration, announced to Historic City News today that he will be a candidate for the St Augustine City Commission to “preserve St. Augustine’s historic character” and tackle “the pivotal challenges we face today; that, if not properly addressed, could forever change the character and appeal of the city we love.”
Valdes has been outspoken as a member, and past chair, of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board. He’s also chaired the Code Enforcement Board and served on the Historic Architectural Review Board.
“I have been privileged to serve the citizens of St. Augustine on these boards,” Valdes said. “It has allowed me to understand what makes St. Augustine so unique and special, and why it is so important to preserve its historic character.”
He’ll run for the seat vacated by Bill Leary and now held by former Commissioner Don Crichlow, who stepped in with assurances he wouldn’t be running to retain it.
Valdes, a fifth-generation Floridian and third-generation builder, has handled extensive restoration and preservation of historic building and home projects in the city, and several years ago was instrumental in finding private funding to restore Henry Flagler era fountains in the west garden of Government House and behind the Lightner Building, as gifts to the citizens of the city of St. Augustine.
“Our antiquated zoning code and vague entry corridor guidelines are inadequate to protect many neighborhoods from the recurrence of these threats,” he says. “I have the experience and knowledge to help modernize and strengthen our codes.”
The Planning and Zoning Board has authority to grant zoning exceptions and variances, but can only recommend zoning changes to the City Commission. That’s prompted Valdes to move to the commission level.
“Today we are unable to effectively protect our city and our neighborhoods outside of the historic preservation areas from the construction of new or remodeling of existing homes and buildings that are or become architecturally out of keeping and completely out of scale with the surrounding homes and buildings,” Valdes wrote in his candidate announcement. “Bad things can happen, like 7-Eleven stores in terrible locations. We must remember that new building can adversely affect the character and value of our city and its neighborhoods for a very long time.”
Valdes has been actively involved in the community since his arrival in 1986. He says that he is deeply vested in its future. Pointing out that his company’s motto is “Building for the Next 100 Years”, Valdes says his campaign’s motto will be, “Planning for the Next 100 Years”.
“I am not a fan of big government, but am certainly a fan of wise, cost-effective, responsive government,” Valdes wrote. “Commissioners and city staff are the taxpayers’ employees, entrusted to do their best for the citizens they represent and to get the greatest value for our city’s money.”