Over objections – City buys troubled property

In a 3-2 split vote last night, with freshman commissioner Bill Leary and Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman objecting, Historic City News watched as Mayor Joe Boles and Commissioners Nancy Sikes-Kline and Errol Jones decided it was best for the City to purchase the property at the corner of Bridge Street and Martin Luther King Avenue.

Since being acquired by RBD Investments, Inc. in tax year 2003, research by Historic City News has revealed that the owners of the property at 102 Bridge Street have contributed more than twice that of the former owner — in terms of property taxes paid.

2003 Billed $4,804.40 Paid: $4,612.22
2004 Billed $7,144.81 Paid: $6,859.02
2005 Billed $7,465.64 Paid: $7,167.01
2006 Billed $9,269.70 Paid: $8,898.91
2007 Billed $8,690.56 Paid: $8,429.84
2008 Billed $7,856.62 Paid: $7,542.36
2009 Billed $7,435.34 Paid: $7,137.93

$6,748.46 was due for property taxes this year; of which $2,262.82 was attributed directly as income to the City of St. Augustine — as well as $183.18 in a City Fire Assessment.

“Because of the threesome’s decision, the City looses another piece of tax-paying property downtown,” observed local business investor Henry M. Whetstone, Jr. “The tax-exempt properties in the City are going to outnumber the tax-paying ones before long.”

The settlement totals more than $300,000; including a $261,925 mortgage plus taxes and investigative fees.

Leary objected to spending $35,000 in investigative costs, fines, prosecution costs and legal fees that will be paid to Canan Law; attorneys for the business owners.

Boles had no specific, immediate plans for the property — but he was determined for the City to make the purchase; quoted in the morning newspaper as saying, “If we take the title and service the debt, we’re in control. With the help of the people of Lincolnville, we’ll figure out what we want to do with this property.”

Freeman suggested the money could be better spent on projects like restoration of Echo House.

For tax purposes, the property is assessed at $301,709.00.

Boles also proclaimed “the people who have been poisoning Lincolnville for so long” — or their extended family — will never do so again.

Historic City News Editor Michael Gold said, “Never is a long time, but, collecting taxes is forever. It’s a bit of a reach to think the City’s purchase of the property guarantees no more drugs will be sold by dealers working the streets in Lincolnville. It is a sure bet, however, that the City has cut themselves off from any tax revenues, at this point.”

City Manager John Regan suggested that there is currently $2,100 in rental income and that he believes there will be private interest in reopening the market.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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