Navigation District blocks $625,000 grant to City Marina

The Florida Inland Navigation District has placed a hold on funds to the City of St Augustine for marina repairs resulting from Hurricane Irma. The damage repair grant represented $625,000 that city manager John Regan was already spending after last Monday’s city commission meeting.

Carl Blow, a commissioner serving on the Florida Inland Navigation District board, notified Regan of his decision not to disburse any funds at this time in a telephone conversation held July 25, 2018. Blow followed up by e-mail the following evening. Historic City News became aware of the communication to the city manager during the ongoing investigation of another city hall debacle; after it was learned that ThompsonBaker Agency had declined to renew millions of dollars in various insurance coverage for the city without explanation.

“I am concerned about the direction the City is taking regarding both recreational and commercial vessel access to the City Marina,” Blow informed Regan after he heard news that the City was considering allowing private dockage to be constructed as part of the White’s Wharf redevelopment. Blow expressed further concerns that if White can install private docks, it would limit or restrict vessel access to the City marina fuel dock and the south marina dock.

Blow says that Regan has repeatedly assured FIND that the City supports improving public access to our waterways. However, based on these recent developments, he put Regan on notice that he has instructed FIND staff to place a hold on the previously approved funds. Blow said that District staff will contact Regan as part of their investigation to determine if the City has violated the terms of their grant agreement or the representations the City made at the December 15, 2017 District Board meeting. At a future meeting, Blow said District staff will report their findings to the full FIND Board of Commissioners.

“The purpose and goal of the Florida Inland Navigation District grant program is to both maintain and improve the recreational and commercial public access to the Intracoastal Waterway,” Blow reminded Regan.

According to the City website, Carl Blow is also a member of the St Augustine Planning and Zoning Board. He told Regan that his reading of the article indicating that the City was considering allowing this new private dock without using the normal Planning and Zoning Board permitting process.

The White’s attorney told commissioners at the last meeting that they received their demolition permit through normal channels. However, over the past three years, they have volleyed with members of city staff, the city manager, and city attorney. They say that they are unable to reach an agreement to rebuild the existing dilapidated structure. Approval of a development agreement could settle the outstanding design and operational plan differences; but, for the moment, the new owners have taken no action and the river continues to wear away at the former Santa Maria Restaurant’s aging pier. The restaurant and their attorney, Ellen Avery-Smith, are expected to return before the city commission again on August 13th to discuss the “development agreement” directly with the commissioners.