Historic City News observed Friday, while everyone else was playing April Fools jokes, that city employees were systematically removing all of the city parking meters and signs from the 2 Artillery Lane parking lot between St George Street and Aviles Street.
For the past six years, since March 8, 2010, Trinity Episcopal Parish, the owner of the property that once was home to the Rector and his family, have leased the lot to the City of St Augustine in exchange for a percentage of the revenue.
The original contract, prepared by former city attorney Ron Brown, was in part a way to finance the street improvements to the first block of Aviles Street. The church owns the entire block that includes the former Woolworth building, Diana Shops, Butler Shoe Store, and Walgreen’s; it fronts King Street to the north and Artillery lane to the south.
Because of its prime location in walking distance to the Casa Monica and Lightner Museum, and the acceptance of the deeply discounted Park Now card (50¢ per hour instead of the usual $1.50 per hour) the lot became a “Godsend” for city employees and others downtown.
Apparently, when the financial geniuses at City Hall did their revenue projections, they didn’t factor just how heavily the discounted Park Now card would cut into revenue or how deeply they underestimated the city’s cost to maintain the lot, as required by the contract. Long story short, the City discovered they were losing money, or perhaps better stated, taking longer than originally projected to reach full recovery of the $225,000 taxpayer investment in the Aviles Street project and Artillery Lane lot repairs.
Earlier this year, representatives from the City and Trinity Parish began negotiation of the next renewal of the lease management agreement, but when they ran into a snag in calculating how to fairly split the revenue, and how “net” revenue should be calculated, the lease expired. Officially, as of April 1, those citizens who relied on that lot to park their vehicles, will have to make other arrangements.
The Rev. Canon Dr. David J. Weidner, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, has written to Finance and Management Director Mark Litzinger as recently as March 21, 2016, in his words, “to endeavor to arrive at a new agreement that would be fair to the needs of the church and be of financial benefit to both parties.”
Proposed new lease terms have been exchanged between the church and the city, and the city is still interested in making a deal — Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield insisting that it cannot continue to be on the same money losing terms.
If the church cannot come to an agreement with the city, the church could use the lot for daily parking or hire a professional parking lot management company to manage it for them. At the Historic Downtown Parking Facility (which is really uptown, not downtown) the charge is $12.00 per entry. Competitive rates, when spaces are available range from $8.00-$10.00 per day. Occasionally full-time lease spaces can be located at rates of about $75.00-$100.00 per month, or more.
The former agreement was terminated effective March 8, 2016 and negotiated at a March 1 meeting between Rev. Weidner and Mark Litzinger to continue to April 1, 2016.