David B. Corneal, the controversial developer whose high-pressure antics, and convenient promises led four of St Augustine’s city commissioners to approve a PUD for the Dow Museum of Historic Homes, was again escalated to the spotlight; this time when Historic City News reader Christina Emerick contacted public officials and other residents about representations on the developer’s pre-opening website.
At issue were concerns at the forefront of resident opposition to the planned unit development in the first place — a lack of parking, the potential for increased noise and commercial disruption in the residential historic district, as well as the use of the property to host “special events”.
“The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens can accommodate up to 200 guests for outdoor wedding ceremonies,” the website claimed. “Who at the City of St Augustine is monitoring compliance with this provision and the many other detailed commitments in this PUD?,” Emerick asked.
Planning and Zoning Board member Sue Ellen Agresta and Mayor Nancy Shaver were caught off guard by the discovery and Emerick’s concerns. Old Town and Lincolnville residents, including Blake Souder, Cash McVay, Lee Geanuleas, and Judith Seraphin were also informed of the disturbing publicity — flagrantly advertising an offer specifically negotiated out of Corneal’s original proposal.
Mayor Shaver said that she found the website “exceptionally disturbing” as she understood the terms of the PUD narrative. She contacted city staff to confirm the PUD requirements and what enforcement, if any, was occurring.
Before Monday afternoon’s city commission meeting, Planning and Building Director David Birchim informed Mayor Shaver that he met with the representatives of The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens and learned that they were apparently “using an old iteration of the PUD narrative”.
Corneal’s attorney, Ellen Avery Smith with the Rogers Towers law firm, is the person who presented and negotiated the terms of the PUD with the commission. During the staff meeting, Birchim and City Manager John Regan gave Corneal’s people the adopted PUD narrative, concluding that “now they know the rules”.
Birchim assured the mayor that staff was assured that they would correct the website.