Public speaks out on DOW PUD – item moved to second hearing

For nearly two-hours, residents on both sides of the controversial Cordova Inn PUD expressed either their approval, or disagreement, with the application by developer David Corneal that will sidestep the city’s HP-1 zoning restrictions, if approved. The Planned Unit Development is needed to allow a “boutique hotel” to be operated in the eight remaining structures that formerly comprised the Dow Museum of Historic Homes.

Corneal has already demolished the nineth home, known as the “Carpenter’s House”, just one day after he got permit approval and before objectors could file an appeal. Professional engineers had different opinions of whether or not the building could be preserved.

In three-minute soundbites that did not end until 6:44 p.m., dozens of speakers raised emotional points-of-view; including those whose families have lived in St Augustine for generations.

City Attorney Isabelle Lopez cautioned the commissioners that, if they vote later in the meeting, to move the PUD application to second reading; that action will have to be advertised as such, and comments made by the public tonight, in the first reading, cannot be relied on as “testimony” in reaching their decision when it returns for a “public hearing” and vote.

Despite the admonishment, Mayor Shaver decided to allow the public to speak tonight. Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline told the City Attorney that she felt capable of hearing from the public both nights, while deciding her vote solely on what she hears August 24th, if the issue passes tonight.

There was a motion by Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath and seconded by Commissioner Leanna Freeman, to move to second reading the application for PUD zoning for the Cordova Inn.

Mayor Shaver and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, citing issues that included uncertain available parking, asked the commission to return the application to HARB on three specific modifications that they had not heard before returning to the commission.

“This is just not buttoned up enough for me,” Mayor Shaver told the commissioners. Commissioner Sikes-Kline said that, when it comes to historic preservation, you have to take the time to do it right; asking the developer to nail down the loose threads and return when he has a complete application to consider.

Commissioner Todd Neville, who participated little in the questions for staff or discussion among the other members of the commission, supported moving forward to second reading — with the verbal understanding of the applicant’s attorney, Ellen Avery-Smith, and consultant, Mark Knight, that the commission would not look favorably on his PUD application if all the details of his plan were less than complete.

The move was approved on a split vote 3-2, with Mayor Shaver and Commissioner Sikes-Kline opposed.

Item 9(A)2. was moved to second hearing, and consideration of Ordinance 2015-24, rezoning approximately 0.96 acres of property located at the intersections of Cordova Street, Bridge Street and St. George Street incorporating the southerly portion of Block 36 City of St. Augustine from Cordova Street to St. George Street north of Bridge Street in the City of St. Augustine, as more particularly described hereinafter, from its current classification of Historic Preservation District-One (HP-1) to the classification of Planned Unit Development (PUD); providing for repeal of conflicting ordinances; providing for severance of invalid provisions; and providing for an effective date is tentatively scheduled to be heard on Monday August 24, 2015.

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