Planning Board wants answers on San Marco Hotel

By: Lee Geanuleas
Special to HISTORIC CITY NEWS

The Planning and Zoning Board of the City of St Augustine continued the request of Kanti Patel to rezone parcels from current zoning designation of Historic Preservation-5 (HP-5) to Planned Unit Development (PUD) until its meeting on February 7th.

Attorney James Whitehouse, representing the owner, wants to amend the existing San Marco Hotel PUD after it was determined that the originally specified underground parking was not feasible.

KANTI PATEL

The developer has since acquired additional land on Grove Avenue and West Castillo Drive from Barnacle Bills restaurant. The PZB is being asked to approve surface parking on the additional land area.

After hearing from several residents who expressed a strong concern for the impact of valet traffic to and from the hotel, the Board directed the applicant’s attorney to produce a traffic study that would help them better understand the impact of relocating the hotel’s parking from underneath the hotel to West Castillo Drive.

Resident Nancy Noloboff succinctly made the point that what was originally an entirely “self-contained” hotel operation, has been changed into something that, if approved, would consume another six-tenths of an acre in the HP-5 district. Noloboff expressed concern that numerous valet trips would further clog traffic on West Castillo Drive. She also reminded the Board that this project was originally approved ten years ago, and that St Augustine has grown significantly since 2006.

The concerns seemed to resonate with Board members.

Sarah Shipp Ryan asked Whitehouse if the hotel could be redesigned to allow cars to go directly from the valet drop-off area to the parking lot at Barnacle Bill’s without having to go out to West Castillo Drive.

Board member Carl Blow reminded the applicant that he was on the PZB in 2006 and liked the project, but moving the parking out from underneath the hotel to surface lots was a “major change” to the PUD and it may not be the best thing for the city. Blow also noted that the “engineering challenges” the applicant cited as the reason for not being able to build the approved underground garage were not out of the ordinary for this type of project.

Sue Agresta pointed out that HP-5 was a district that “is intended to provide a mix of residential and nonresidential uses compatible with the existing historic structures and the district’s relationship with surrounding neighborhoods and traffic circulation.” She wondered if rezoning such a large percentage of HP-5 to PUD for hotel parking was consistent with City Code.

At the end of the long meeting, the applicant’s attorney agreed to provide a traffic study and come back on February 7th with answers to the many questions.

-LG: Well done to the Planning and Zoning Board for asking tough questions and not accepting the all-too-typical hand waiving from an applicant’s attorney. Especially “well done” to Vice Chair Deltra Long who chaired today’s meeting in the absence of Chairman Matt Shaffer. She took no “guff” and made it crystal clear that the Board appreciated the presence of everyone who attended — even if the applicant’s attorney did not. Of course, a hearty BRAVO to the residents who came out to the Fullerwood Training Center on a rainy day.

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