Historic City News watched as more varied architectural styles south of King Street were approved — however, style in the historic core remains uncertain after hearing 1 1/2 hours of public comments before the city commission last night.
Public comments ranged from, “Our Spanish Colonial style is the only thing we have” to, “If Walt Disney decides to build fake, he’s much better at it.”
Maurine Boles, Mayor Joe Boles’ mother and veteran of 40 years of historic interpretation, led the charge to “save our colonial architecture,” while historian David Nolan argued, “The important thing to save in St. Augustine is (all eras) we have in St. Augustine, and not … just the fake part of it.”
At issue is whether colonial-style will be required on sites with no history of that architecture, what opponents are calling “fake.”
City Attorney Ron Brown will prepare an ordinance allowing styles compatible with surroundings in the area south of King Street for commission approval and forwarding to the state Department of Community Affairs. That process could take six months.
Meanwhile, the original 30-year-old architectural guidelines dictating colonial style throughout the historic district will remain in place pending further discussion.
The commission tripped on the catalyst for the style debate as the public hearing opened – a proposal by architect and Commissioner Don Crichlow to reprise the turn of the 20th century Bishop’s Building in the Bank of America parking lot at St. George Street and Cathedral Place.
Vice Mayor Errol Jones asked if any recent construction was “like the building proposed,” and Mayor Boles said, “We’re not discussing any particular proposal; we’re speaking generically.”
Crichlow took part in debate following the hearing, but recused himself at the end of the meeting when Commissioner Leanna Freeman brought up procedure for an informal mediation with Crichlow’s client on the Bishop’s Building proposal.
Mayor Boles, who will represent the commission in the mediation, assured commissioners he will only be gathering information and not stating a position.
During the hearing, Crichlow argued for city “branding as the whole mosaic of our history (and not) building a theme park.”