City sets workshops on use of public areas

St Augustine City Attorney Ronald W Brown informed Historic City News this afternoon that, at their regular meeting held last night, the City Commission responded to public inquiries and those from commissioners by scheduling two workshops to discuss the general uses of public areas in the City.

At the first workshop, scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon on February 8, Brown told reporters the Commission would express their various opinions and concerns regarding any issues related to vending, first amendment expressive activities and street performances.

The announced time and date for the second workshop is from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on February 23. An agenda has not yet been provided.

During public comments, Coquina Avenue resident Chris Fulmer told commissioners that the city should provide regulations and permitting for mobile vendors within the city; similar to other outdoor communities.

Accordion player Ralph Hayes says that he has polled the merchants in the historic preservation district to discover that “almost all of them” support a return to street performers; especially on private property along St George Street.

Hayes says the only objections he has heard, have to do with the current, unregulated manner in which performers, artists and vendors occupy the high-traffic intersections. With permits and reasonable regulations, which Hayes offered to help draft, he says performers planning to participate in the 450th commemoration activities will comply and become a community asset.

Ed Slavin, who works but does not live in the City, told the commission that the city should honor artists and musicians with their support — “stop arresting them”, Slavin said. In later comments, Slavin said that he has learned that “talking rather than suing” can be very effective.

Francis Street resident Nancy Christensen echoed prior public remarks in support of regulation; taking special care to distinguish between first-amendment-protected expressions; in the form of paint, print, photography and sculpture as opposed to “general street vending”.

Christensen also suggested that although “values and standards” could not be legally enforced by the city in the regulation process, she wanted to encourage the city to work with the art community to establish them anyway — not for restriction, but for recognition of those artisans who excel beyond those voluntary standards.

Charles Dickenson who resides at 3028 First Street distributed copies of what he claims is a recent ruling regarding regulation of visual artist in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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