Worried residents drive 204 miles to speak 1 minute

4:30 a.m. comes early in the morning, but that hasn’t dissuaded Skip Hutton or Gina Burrell who live in the North City neighborhoods surrounding the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind from chartering a 15-passenger van to appear before a legislative committee and object to approval of House Bill 1039.

Residents will board at least one van at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to travel to Tallahassee for an 8:00 a.m. House committee meeting on legislation to give the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind power of eminent domain and reduce its responsibility to work with the city to resolve differences.

According to former St Augustine Mayor George Gardner, who lives in Fullerwood Park Historic District, said Hutton and Burrell arranged for the early morning trip and called on residents to sign up — promising, “More vans can be provided as needed”.

City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline said that the agenda item, originally being heard on Thursday, was moved up to 8:00 a.m. tomorrow — just 5 minutes before the 4:30 p.m. deadline for changes on yesterday.

Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine, Inc., has weighed in on the conflict. The activist group is led by Theresa Segal. Commissioner Sikes-Kline serves as a director. The group, which also includes vice-president Becky Greenberg, secretary-treasurer Kathryn Schirmacher and directors Alison Simpson and Antoinette Wallace, is supporting the plight of the north city neighborhoods. The organization has announced, “Even more disturbing are provisions in the bill that would make all campus properties vested, thus removing the school’s accountability and making city codes unenforceable.”

Gardner has 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 has described the relationship between neighbors and the school as a, “David and Goliath battle to get the city’s opposition heard over Proctor’s political maneuvering in Tallahassee”.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer