News and Views of 2018

The St Augustine Report
by former Mayor George Gardner

Annually, Historic City News defers to an experienced writer and editor, for his curated list of the top ten news stories in St Augustine and St Johns County.  We enjoy the opportunity to showcase former St Augustine City Commissioner and two-term mayor George Gardner’s personal favorites as well as his recap, month-by-month, of local news stories that were part of our lives during the previous year.

Top Ten St Augustine News Stories

  1. Panhandling ordinance
  2. Plaza protest ordinance
  3. City elections
  4. Dressing Downton exhibit
  5. Joyner new Flagler College president
  6. American Legion Post 37 loses Hamblen House
  7. 170 home Fish Island development rejected
  8. Buckingham Smith Assisted Living Facility closes
  9. “Let Freedom Ring” chimes project dedicated
  10. Fire department ISO rating Class 1


Alcazar City Commission meeting room and the Pena Peck House among city-owned properties damaged by hurricanes / 32 Granada Street designated a local landmark, can’t be demolished / Wednesday Farmers Market at St. Augustine Pier likely to end after ten years of operation in contract between St. Augustine Beach Civic Association and county   


Ordinance to regulate panhandling introduced / Former St. Johns School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph G. Joyner inaugurated as Flagler College president, succeeding Dr. William Abare / Construction of new intersection configuration under way at San Marco Avenue and May Street / Highly successful Dressing Downton exhibition closes after more than four months at Lightner Museum / Former City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt receives Order of La Florida / Confederate Memorial Contextualization Advisory Committee holds inaugural meeting / Hotelier Kanti Patel buys Cathedral Place, former Exchange bank building


SR-313 beltway from SR-312 at US-1 South to US-1 North tops the list of road project priorities / Four millionth vehicle since its opening on July 1, 2006 passes through the 1,240-vehicle capacity Visitor Center Parking Facility / Distance-based panhandling ordinance adopted / John Cary succeeds Denise May as assistant city attorney / Mike Cullum succeeds Martha Graham as public works director


“Let Freedom Ring Chimes Project” dedicated in Dr. Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park / Nombre de Dios gift shop demolished for a new less hurricane-prone structure, raised from 6.53 to 10 feet above sea level / Distance-based panhandling ordinance goes into effect / Commissioner Todd Neville won’t run for re-election. John Valdes and Jill Pacetti file / Demolition of the last structure on the former Echo House property approved / Decades long Wendlers vs City case ends / Commissioners reject a franchise fee increase on the city’s horse carriage companies / The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) obligates as much as $11 million to repair 13 lift stations damaged by Hurricane Matthew 


Allen and Delores Lastinger and the Lastinger Family Foundation receive the Adelaide Sanchez Award for Historic Preservation, Restoration, Education and Interpretation / Commissioners approve bike share system, allowing users to register at a location or through a website or smartphone app to unlock a bike / 25 Castillo iron cannons will receive treatments at Texas A&M University to protect them from on-going corrosion in exposure to the elements


Architect Don Crichlow wins approval for a mall series of structures between 18 St. George Street and Spanish Street, site of the former Local Heros Café / The Old Drug Store at Orange and Cordova streets will reconstruct former bay window and replace shell dash with wood siding along Cordova Street / Water taxi begins Saturdays between St. Augustine Municipal Marina and Vilano Beach pier / Former Congressman John Mica pitches commissioners for a Castillo visitor center on current administrative center site / Bed tax increase debated, city shapes a needs list / City Commission suspends Planning and Zoning Board member Deltra Long, charged with fraud against the Federal Emergency Management Agency  


City Commission accepts an advisory committee’s recommendation to add context to the Confederate Memorial in the Plaza de la Constitution / City, White’s Wharf, LLC tangle on regulations for the former Santa Maria Restaurant property / Partial demolition of 9 Aviles Street becomes total after further evaluation determines building is not salvageable


Incumbent Mayor Nancy Shaver wins third term and John Valdes first term as a city commissioner with outright wins in Primary Elections / St. Johns County takes over construction of a homeless services center from Home Again St. Johns on State Road 207 /Planned Unit Development zoning for 170 homes on historic Fish Island rejected by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board / Iconic gas station at San Marco Avenue and West Castillo Drive to be replaced by a welcome center for Olde Town Trolleys / Holly Jolly Trolleys will use the Disney model of selling time period tickets to reduce long lines at the Visitor Center / Ordinance approved to remove members of lower boards without cause


Demolition of properties along West Castillo Drive begins to make way for a two-story Renaissance Hotel / Revised draft of the Historic Preservation Master Plan notes conversions to commercial use, short term rentals and tourism market demands threaten historic properties / Fire department’s ISO (Insurance Services Organization) rating moves to Class 1 / Community event center is most favored in a survey for use of waterworks building / Landmark Hamblen House on the bayfront closed as home to American Legion Post 37 / Pedestrian connection from the Bridge of Lions to new seawall south of the bridge is dedicated / City considers mobility fee / Long term residents decry commercial takeover of historic district in Historic Architectural Review Board hearings / Plan presented to redesign Tolomato lot for delivery truck parking / New St. Augustine Veterans Community Based Outpatient Clinic will be built off State Road 207 / Vilano Beach Town Center has been designated a Florida Trail Town / Historic Tours of America’s Old Jail Museum rededicated after a million dollar restoration prompted largely by Hurricane Irma / $250,000 in Lincolnville Community Redevelopment Area funds committed to repair historic Trinity Church on Bridge Street


City considering pay-by-plate parking system / Visitor Information Center wheelchair rental plan approved / Citizen groups authorized to adopt city parks in an Adopt-A-Park program / Lightner Museum celebrates 70th anniversary and the 130th anniversary of its home, the former Alcazar Hotel / Buckingham Smith Assisted Living Facility closed / Historic Preservation Master Plan adopted as ‘dynamic planning exercise’ / Tenant Anchor Faith Church seeks to buy and rejuvenate Ponce de Leon mall


City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline reelected / Ordinance adopted to separate protesters and counter-protesters in and around the Plaza / Fatal accident at Anastasia Boulevard and Red Cox Road reignites demands for a traffic signal at intersection / Carrie Johnson and first responders who assisted after hurricane in Florida’s panhandle chosen switchers for Light Up! Night / St. Augustine’s three tall ship tour businesses make timing and tour concessions to reduce Bridge of Lions openings / UF Historic St. Augustine board approves ideas to add context to Confederate General William Wing Loring monument behind Governor’s House


The City Commission seeks one-year moratorium on dockless personal devices until regulations can be prepared / Flagler College, China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) agree to faculty and student exchange / Commission considers Registration, inspection program for residential rental properties / Commission decries University of Florida’s uses of city’s historic properties / Tree Mitigation Fund established

Former Mayor George Gardner is a graduate of the University of Rochester, NY, a Navy veteran, and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor for 16 years. He and his wife, Sally, owned and operated the Charlotte Street Toy Shop until its sale in 1999. They live in North City with their only remaining “at-home” daughter, Lizzie, a rescue Golden Retriever. George served on St. Augustine’s Vision ’93 Committee, the City’s Code Enforcement Board, was chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board and president of the Historic Area Council of the Chamber of Commerce. He served two terms as St. Augustine mayor, 2002-2006, and one term as a city commissioner.

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