Guest Column: City has tools to protect history

GEORGE GARDNERRobert Hall has long been crusading to “get a handle on what will be allowed in St Augustine’s HP (Historic Preservation) districts.”

Of Flagler College’s proposed classroom complex at Cordova and Cuna streets around the corner from his house, he argued before the City Commission two weeks ago, “The … project is going to be attractive but not historical as required for HP-3.”

The Planned Unit Development (PUD) project goes back to the Historic Architectural Review Board for further review May 17.

Hall has pleaded for a 27-foot height limit in the HP districts. The proposed Flagler buildings would be 38 feet, including 3 feet of fill above the flood control level.

The City Commission and lower boards have rejected the 27-foot height limit, fearing it would take away property owners’ rights. But the city has two means to control height as well as other elements.

The often criticized PUD that allows projects to ignore code restrictions also gives the city power to dictate all its elements – including building height.

And concern for property rights was tested when the City Commission in 2003 put entry corridor guidelines into code and created a review panel for any property owner objections.

City Planner David Birchim says there have since been hundreds of permits issued along the three corridors – San Marco Avenue, King Street, and Anastasia Blvd. Only six have gone to the Entry Corridor Review Committee for recommendation to the City Commission, and the commission approved four modified permits and denied two. None were appealed to circuit court.

It appears people are willing to conform to the standards of the community, if they know what those standards are.

And it appears the City Commission and lower boards can clarify those standards for our historic preservation districts – if they have the will.

George Gardner
St Augustine Mayor (2002-2006)
St Augustine Commissioner (2006-2008)

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