City goes “all in” with settlement

In what some Historic City News readers have characterized as a “high stakes poker game”, the City of St Augustine is taking their hand and going “all in” for a negotiated settlement that, among other provisions, will halt fears that the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind will exercise the power of eminent domain to force unwilling neighbors to sell their homes.

An emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees of the state school has been called for Thursday — the only item on the agenda is consideration of the City’s proposed settlement. Although the City unanimously approved the settlement, without acceptance by the FSDB Board, the two sides are back to a stalemate that may have to be settled in the courts.

St Augustine Senator John Thrasher is calling both the school and the City to show their hand and to negotiate their differences rather than attempt a legislative solution that has heated tempers in the Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood Park Historic Districts to a fevered pitch.

Tonight’s decision places all the City’s cards on the table — it will declare the existing Collins House and President’s House to be in full compliance with City codes, cancel a pending code enforcement action against the school, establish a maximum density and use for the Genopoly Street property already owned by the school, cause a controversial fence to be taken down and relocated at the Collins House property and — at least for ten years, but alternatively, forever — protect the two residential neighborhoods that adjoin the campus from government taking of their homes through eminent domain.

In their last meeting, the Board of Trustees expressed their willingness to be good neighbors and to accommodate the resident’s requests when possible.

The school has designated retiring president, Daniel Hutto, to be their representative in mediation — the City is represented through Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline. With the showdown set for Thursday, we won’t have long to wait before we learn if an end to the heated conflict is at hand.

If you are planning to attend the Board of Trustees meeting, it will be convened in Room 126 of Moore Hall, located at 207 North San Marco Avenue in St Augustine on Thursday, March 1, 2012, at 3:00 p.m. Open parking is available on the east side of the building.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer

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