Officials say hundred-year-old Hastings is worth it but taxpayers say no

Thomas Horace Hastings founded what we know as the “Potato Capital of Florida” in 1890; nineteen-years before the Town of Hastings received its charter.

For the past five months, the people of Hastings have asked the Town Council to pass a resolution that would put to a vote the question of whether to dissolve the charter under which the city has operated since 1909.

“Let the people decide their own fate,” lifelong resident Johnny Barnes told local Historic City News reporters recently. “The mayor and his half-ass attorney continue to delay.”

The City of St Augustine and the Town of St Augustine Beach are the only other incorporated townships in St Johns County. If dissolved, Hastings would become another part of unincorporated St Johns County; like Flagler Estates, Elkton, Julington Creek or Ponte Vedra Beach.

Over the past fifty years, most notably some wealthy residents of Ponte Vedra Beach, have attempted to adopt a town charter; allowing residents to establish their own municipal government, create and enforce codified ordinances, and to levy taxes against property owners sufficient to pay for the costs of presumably more responsive, enhanced local services that would better suit their needs. Such a proposition has never passed despite impassioned appeals.

Many Hastings residents today will tell you that the Town of Hastings is financially unsustainable, something that has been a concern for those in other areas, like Ponte Vedra Beach, who have evaluated the proposition.

From Barnes’ point of view, their town will continue to deteriorate, leaving more eyesores and blight where there was once wealth and prosperity.

But that’s not the opinion of the Mayor of Hastings, Tom Ward. He has said twice, lately, that he thinks Main Street looks better now than it has in years.

Barnes points to photographs he’s collected in recent months that make Hastings look more like an urban battleground than the quaint farming town where he grew up.

“This is what the people of Hastings look at every day,” Barnes points out as he flips through the pictures in the collection. “Some of these buildings are owned by the town.”

Frustrated by the lack of response from elected city officials and city staff, and confident that the taxpayers, many of whom are his relatives, he asks rhetorically, “I wonder if the Chamber of Commerce would like to use them in promoting beautiful St Johns County?”

Photo credits: © 2017 Historic City News contributed photograph by John Barnes

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