Owner Henry M. Whetstone responded to yesterday’s decision by the City Planning and Zoning Board to “table” until their February meeting the application from Bayfront Inn, Inc., to construct a 270-foot dock into the Matanzas Bay, by saying he is prepared to take his request “as far as necessary”.
According to the application, the proposed structure would attach to the east side of the Bayfront Inn — just to the south of the Santa Maria Restaurant.
City officials have said the city owns the seawall and river bottom there, and that the Whetstones own no contiguous upland property where a dock could be attached.
Whetstone has a different opinion and has hired St. Augustine attorney George McClure to represent his interests in the matter.
Whetstone’s parents built the current Bayfront Inn on the site where several cottages offered as rentals during World War II once stood.
Whetstone says that, when first built, the Santa Maria Restaurant was the site of Corbett’s Fish Market. The lot for the restaurant, known as 135 Avenida Menendez, is described as “Corbetts dock water lot lying east of Bay Street on west shore of Matanzas Bay” on the Property Appraiser’s website.
“That land is not owned by the City of St Augustine,” Whetstone said. “The owners had to buy that bottom land and they did not buy it from the City — they bought it from the Hernandez family who then owned the waterfront lots north of ours”.
The properties that face Avenida Menendez today, including the Bayfront Inn located at 138 Avenida Menendez, and its neighbors, all faced towards Marine Street prior to construction of the road, Whetstone told Historic City News.
Whetstone, who is 80 years-old, told reporters, “I still have my parent’s deed to the property — the lots run all the way through from Marine Street to the bayfront.”
Block 19 runs between Artillery Lane and Cadiz Street, Block 20 between Cadiz Street and Bravo Lane, and Block 21, owned by the Whetstones, between Bravo Lane and Bridge Street, according to records on file with the St Johns County Property Appraiser.
Whetstone points out that an easement was given by the property owners in Blocks 19, 20 and 21 to build Bay Street, now called “Avenida Menendez”, that essentially runs through what was their back yard.
This morning, Whetstone told Historic City News editor Michael Gold, that he has high confidence that he will prevail. He laid out his plans to use the private dock as a location for a Spanish Galleon that will serve as a historically authentic and educational attraction on the south end of town — past the municipal marina and Santa Maria Restaurant.
Whetstone says he has no intention of renting boat slips or competing against the city mooring fields or duplicating the services already available at the municipal marina.
“I am ready to move forward with construction before the City builds an obstruction,” Whetstone said, referring to the new seawall development plans.
“If the City wants to take my property rights away, they are going to have to pay me for them,” Whetstone said. “If they aren’t prepared to do that, they need to approve my application so we can get started with construction of the dock.”
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer