Without any discussion during the public meeting two weeks ago, St Augustine City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline ostensibly took it on herself to solicit several professors at the University of Florida to offer their opinion of the proposed rezoning for Cordova Inn, formerly the Dow Museum of Historic Homes.
With no public hearing required, on Monday, July 27th, the commission listened to lawyer Ellen Avery-Smith make her plea to change the zoning in the oldest, most established part of our city for the benefit of their client, David Corneal.
During the last meeting, Sikes-Kline and Mayor Nancy Shaver joined Commissioner Leanna Freeman in questioning the number of yet unresolved issues and additional requests by the owner that had not been considered by the Planning and Zoning Board when they heard the Corneal proposal.
Despite early signs of critical thinking on Freeman’s part, when it came time to vote, she proved to be nothing more than a tower of Jello; siding with Corneal family friend, Commissioner Todd Neville, and vision zombie, Commissioner Roxanne Horvath. If the Dow PUD is approved, the rezoning goes against the guidance of the $78,000 vision plan; validating taxpayer claims that the vision statement was a worthless exercise in spending other people’s money. Developers who have enough money are not concerned about a city vision statement, local ordinances, or even established zoning.
Corneal purchased the property from the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach; a bequest from the Dow estate. Ordinance 2015-24 will be up for public hearing Monday night; asking to rezone approximately 0.96 acres of property from its current classification of Historic Preservation District-One (HP-1) to the classification of Planned Unit Development.
“Nothing that I’ve read in the narrative is compelling,” Mayor Shaver told the commissioners, indicating that the bar to ignore established zoning is very high.
Even though Sikes-Kline, cast her vote against advancing the ordinance to second hearing, with Freeman’s desertion, the advancement was approved by a 3-2 split vote. Sikes-Kline is often referred to as a “one-trick pony”, since her only interest in city business seems to be those matters related to preservation or transportation.
Because of the covert manner in which this surprise UF white paper appeared, without public discussion, some are saying the prior vote was merely to placate those members of the community who will hold her accountable for betraying her late mother’s devotion to historic preservation.
Sikes-Kline sneakily sought out Dr. Michael Reid, Dean of the College of Health & Human Services, University of Florida, to assess potential community benefits of the proposal.
“I requested this paper because I felt an independent assessment by professionals in the area of historic preservation and heritage tourism would be helpful,” Sikes-Kline said in a quote that appeared in the St Augustine Report.
The resulting report circulated by Sikes-Kline on Friday, is not “independent”. I fail to see how any academically accepted research methods were employed, and the evaluation of the biased data does not follow traditional procedures for program evaluation.