Letter: PZB should not be overturned by the City Commission

Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine
Steering Committee

  • Marsha Chance
  • Tom Day
  • Melinda Rakoncay
  • Ruby Raley
  • Kathy Schirmacher
  • John Versaggi
  • Paul Zielinski

Dear Historic City News editor:

Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine is deeply concerned with the progression of Ordinance 2017-12 to second reading scheduled for July 10, 2017.

Confirmation of this amendment will undermine the very purpose of zoning and weaken the confidence of St. Augustine residents’ in the consistent and fair application of regulations.

This PUD created six years ago was to serve building the San Marco Hotel. Granting of this PUD ceded 12% of HP5 to one person. Approval of the amendment cedes another 3%, giving one person control of 15% of HP5. It has not gone unnoticed that the properties are non-contiguous, setting up another disturbing precedent for others to request a patchwork PUD. This developer owns other property in the same district (1 Riberia St.) and has had discussions to acquire additional property.

HP5 was established in the ‘70s to prevent exactly what is happening in this ordinance. PZB’s rationale on reviewing this request was sound and without error. A message is being sent to citizens that regulations can be easily overridden despite the decisions of the PZB.

While understanding that PUDs are not required to comply with established occupancy/parking ratios, in practicality a PUD must provide adequate parking to protect the vicinity from bearing its peak time overflow. The compounding effects of a weekend event at Francis Field and a 500-person event at the San Marco Hotel cannot be denied resulting in conflict with mobility initiatives and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. These risks of these scenarios should not be ignored.

Additionally, nothing has been demanded of the developer for archaeological investigation during the construction phase. The property in question is one block from our Colonial City Gate and could hold many secrets from our past. Archaeological access should be a condition of any PUD.

Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine takes the position that Ordinance 2017-12 sets a dangerous precedent, has been denied by the PZB, and should not be overturned by the City Commission. The developer’s occupancy data is highly questionable and appears to have changed to justify the amendment. Proper vetting of the developer’s data should be required before further consideration of this amendment.

The city is not responsible for the success or feasibility of a developer’s business case. It cannot subsidize incomplete engineering and planning decisions by any property owner. Our City’s credibility in the consistent application of zoning regulations both in historic preservation districts and at large will be compromised by the passage of this PUD amendment.

The intentions of the City Commission to uphold city regulations, preserve neighborhoods and foster improved mobility will be demonstrated clearly by their actions. We therefore respectfully ask the City Commission to deny this request for the rezoning of HP-5.

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