About ten residents, who live in the North City neighborhoods surrounding the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, chartered a 15-passenger van and made the 204 mile drive to Tallahassee to object to approval of House Bill 1039; they were greeted with an opportunity to address a legislative committee — for 30 seconds.
At the last minute Monday, the meeting, originally planned for tomorrow, was rescheduled for 8:00 a.m. this morning. The group of worried residents departed this morning at 4:30 a.m.
According to former St Augustine Mayor George Gardner, who lives in Fullerwood Park Historic District, the short period to speak was due to committee time restrictions. Gardner told reporters that he understood the reason behind the restrictions but the lack of time to argue their case was “very unfortunate.”
The bill passed out of the House Economic Affairs Meeting, 12-6.
According to legal observers, in addition to eminent domain, other provisions in the bill, if passed by the full House, will make all campus properties vested — thus removing the school’s accountability and making city codes unenforceable.
“It’s a scary thing,” Gardner said. “These fine folks have joined in and will send a message that this community cares about its history.”
Gardner apparently had no misconceptions about what lay ahead for his family and others who make Nelmar Terrace Historic District and Fullerwood Park Historic District their homes. Gardner described the relationship between neighbors and the school yesterday, calling it a, “David and Goliath battle to get the city’s opposition heard over Proctor’s political maneuvering in Tallahassee”.