Public hearings at City meeting Monday night

The St. Augustine local news desk at Historic City News is expecting lengthy testimony on ordinances that will go to public hearing and final action Monday.

At issue will be new ordinances to ban vending and solicitation in the west garden of Government House, Anderson and Ponce de Leon circles and at the intersection of King and Malaga streets.

At the regular City Commission Meeting Monday, January 25, 2010 held at 5:00 P.M. in The Alcazar Room of City Hall, it won’t necessarily be public comments extending the hearings, but rather city staff testimony supporting the ordinances.

City Attorney Ron Brown forewarned commissioners when they advanced the ordinances earlier this month that they include “substantial findings of fact which will require testimony and evidence” during the hearings. That translates into necessarily longer public hearings.

“The findings required for most ordinances need not rise to this level,” Brown said. “But these ordinances are restricting – by time, place and manner – the right to free expressive activities protected by the first amendment. The courts reviewing such ordinances usually require extensive findings.”

Police, fire, and public works staff will put testimony on the record supporting reasons for the ordinances, such as impeding traffic flow and emergency access, creating visual clutter and blight, and impacting the historic character in the Plaza area.

Also facing public hearings: an extension of alcohol service hours until 2:00 a.m. – the ordinance would expire July 12th unless extended by commissioners.

Additionally, public comments will be heard on an ordinance that will eliminate “use” of an existing, non-residential structure, as a criterion for requiring property owners to make structural changes otherwise required in floodplain management.

“These public hearings will be longer, but can save hours of court hearings and legal expenses to the city”, Brown said.

Photo credit: © 2010 Historic City News staff photograph