Letter: Parking for San Marco Hotel PUD is totally insufficient

Richard Bozung
St Augustine, FL

Dear Historic City News editor:

The parking provided by the San Marco Hotel PUD is totally insufficient. I know that with each change in the design of this project the applicant has increased the number of parking spaces provided. That is good, but it still does not come close to what it should be.

For example, if this application was before the County, their parking requirements call for a total of 243 parking spaces. That is based on:

  • 1 space per room = 89
  • 1 space per every 3 seats in the restaurant and bar = 43
  • 1 space per every 3 seats in the meeting and banquet room = 111
    Grand Total = 243 parking spaces (county requirements)

* At a maximum occupancy of no more than 1 person per 15 square-feet to comply with established fire code, the 5000 square-foot meeting and banquet room could accommodate a maximum of 333 persons.

The applicant is proposing to provide 144 parking spaces. That is a shortfall of 99 spaces compared to the county. This is primarily due to the applicant proposal of 25 spaces to accommodate up to 333 people for events in the 5000 square-foot meeting and banquet room. 13 people-per-car seems totally unrealistic.

In an effort to get a handle on parking for existing special events, like a wedding at a Bed and Breakfast, you recently changed the parking space requirement to 1-per-200 square-feet of special venue space. The developer is trying to apply that formula, designed to grandfather in existing special event venues, to the San Marco Hotel PUD. I brought this to the attention of two well respected local architects who were very skeptical of the appropriateness of its application to a new hotel. I doubt that any of you believed that formula would be applied to a brand-new hotel.

I am sure the hotel’s business plan is predicated on maximizing the use of their 5000 square-foot meeting and banquet room. That makes perfect sense. There will not be infrequent special events, held on rooftops or in side yards. They will become an integral part of the business, held indoors in a large space dedicated to such uses. To allocate only 25 spaces for this intense use is just plain wrong.

Given that this will be a high-end hotel with a high employee to guest ratio, employee parking certainly needs to be considered. The developer has made a miniscule provision for employee parking. Employees are going to be scrambling for parking spaces in the adjacent neighborhoods.

We face some significant parking and mobility issues in our city. Working with the developer in the context of a PUD gives us a unique opportunity to get the parking right and not add to an already serious deficiency in parking in our city. As much as some of us may like this development, it is no time to be giving it a pass on parking. If anything, it is the perfect time for the City to bargain from a position of strength and have a new development of this scale live up to a realistic parking requirement.

We change the HP-5 zoning in exchange for adequate parking. Let’s step back for just a moment and come up with a more reasonable parking plan – something in the 250 spaces range.

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