Letter: A-Street community garden

Letter: A-Street community garden

Dennis Dean
St Augustine Beach, FL

Dear Editor:

All we wanted was a nice, aesthetically pleasing garden in the public plaza of our neighborhood; something that everybody could use and enjoy.

What we got was a private farm behind an ugly fence and a bunch of nasty people telling us we can’t come in.

The president of the club has continued to thumb her nose at the neighbors when they have approached her with suggestions that might appease everyone.

The club has continued to pour time and money into this project even though the neighbors have told them and the city commission, for over a year, there are many problems with their choice of location.

And “green”? These “master gardeners” rotor-tilled and chain-sawed the roots of three 200 year old oak trees so they could plant their private garden underneath. A garden underneath oak trees? Hmm…..

We told our commissioners “we don’t want this here”. It’s not appropriate to have a 50 plot garden in our neighborhood. We are not zoned for commercial agricultural use. We are a residential neighborhood. Where are they going to park 50 cars?

What about their compost piles? They smell. They have bugs. Do the commissioners want one in their front yard?

What about that crappy livestock fence with the lattice attached to it with finishing nails? Are they going to pay for the damage it causes if it flies through my windows with the next stiff wind?

Where are the kids going to play now? Should they stand in the middle of A Street so they can be run down by the garden club people as they race to their private garden plots?

Who came up with this brilliant idea? I guess with all of the Jerry Springer action they’ve got going on down there at city hall, they don’t have time to worry about us little old residents. It is all so very frustrating and embarrassing to say the least.

The commissioners have ignored the wishes of the people. They have even donated city AND personal funds to this club. They continue to vote in favor of the club even after the residents say, repeatedly, that they do not want it there. I cannot figure it out. Aren’t they supposed to act on behalf of the people?

How did it come to this? The subdivision plats (Coquina Gables, Atlantic Beach and Chautauqua Beach) call them “plazas”. A plaza is a public square or similar open area in a town or city. Florida Statute 177.081(3) – says it is dedicated to the public for the uses and purposes thereon stated. The use and purpose is a “public plaza”.

City Resolution #07-17 says the plazas are intended for public use. The City agrees to maintain them and the facilities on them. The Resolution does not say the City owns them. The lease agreement with the garden club says the City owns them. It says, “The City holds the property in Fee Simple Title”.

If that is true, where is the deed? There is not one. The City does not own the plazas. The PUBLIC owns them. Therefore, what gives the City the right to sell off the plazas; and for $10 no less! Where can I get mine?

How did we end up with this private club locking us out of our public plaza? How do we get rid of them? Our property values are falling. Public hostility is growing. The plazas are no longer useable or accessible to the residents of the neighborhood to which they belong.

The club is being allowed to operate a COMMERCIAL (costs money) PRIVATE (fenced out unless you pay) VEGETABLE FARM (producing mass quantities of food) in our RESIDENTIAL (where WE live, not them) neighborhood.

They are being allowed to build fences and sheds without the benefit and protection of the building permitting process. They are being allowed to irreparably harm protected oak trees without any repercussions. They are being allowed to harass the neighborhood residents. They are grabbing up public lands, free, and are running their business on them.

There are now over 100 signatures from the residents who want the garden club gone, and those are just from people walking by. The 1100 property owners in Coquina Gables, Chautauqua Beach or Atlantic Beach Subdivisions are not even aware of what the commissioners have allowed because the commissioners did not notify them. The owners have the right to know!

The garden club needs to relocate to a more appropriate place. Ron Parker is a perfect spot and it is less than a mile away. It is a 4.5-acre park with lots of room and it is not in the middle of a residential neighborhood. They say the Lincolnville Garden is great, and I agree — it is located in a 200-acre park.

The City needs to “beautify” the A Street Plaza in a way that allows everyone to use it. Sure, make it a garden. Put in permanent landscaping and flowers, open spaces for the kids to play, playground equipment, sitting areas under the oaks, paved angled parking to help with the parking problem rather than add to it, and dog walking — but no fences and no private clubs.

We have all seen the work that has been done to the other public plazas in St. Augustine Beach. They are nice and pretty and open for everyone to use. Why can’t they stick with that plan?

To the “powers that be”, because I have not found you yet, please make them fix this because asking them to make it right is not working!

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