Coquina Landgrab: You’re going to lie and I’m going to swear to it

Prior to the City Commission meeting two weeks ago, Historic City News warned our readers that if St Augustine City Manager John Regan has his way, city residents will be forced to pay $459,000, or more, for a land grab on Coquina Avenue (Davis Shores) that is already underway.

During the subsequent city commission meeting, January 14th, the land grab, whose tentacles reach back to Commissioner Leanna Freeman (an attorney who lives less than 4-blocks away on South Matanzas Boulevard) and John P Regan (the city manager who lives about 2-blocks away on Solano Avenue), was presented by the Director of Public Works, Michael Cullum.

Cullum, clearly the grocery boy sent to collect the overdue bill for Regan, used his time before the commission to dangle his engineering license as a buttress to some very doubtful representations, if not perspicuous lies. 

After a speech that harped on resiliency to sea level rise, adaptive solutions to sunny-day flooding on Coquina Avenue, the need for a passive pocket park for the residents of South Davis Shores, and a sustainability program that somehow got re-prioritized over Christmas and the New Year break, Cullum leads the audience to believe that the City of St Augustine must buy the private property at 91-93 Coquina Avenue. 

Further, with concurrence from the city manager and support from Commissioner Freeman, the commission is led to believe that if they don’t understand any of the smoke and mirrors to which they have been subjected for the past 15-minutes, they only need to know this — the whole reason for the purchase of 91-93 Coquina Avenue is to have “legal access to the outfall”.

What?  How were the culverts installed, and later, how were they replaced?  How does the city perform routine, preventive maintenance and repairs to the storm water system?  The mayor, Nancy Shaver, turned to city attorney Isabelle Lopez to ask for answers. 

Lopez’ response?  “Well,” Lopez said, “It’s a mystery.”  A mystery?  The city’s legal right to access property central to drainage from the low-lying streets south of Anastasia Boulevard, now challenged by two licensed professional engineers, the director of public works and the city manager, is “a mystery”?  The mayor followed up rhetorically, “Makes you wonder how many other mysteries the city has over ownership and access to city facilities.”  Lopez responded, “Well, there’s a few”.

Regan attempted to distract anyone who may have been awakened by the unwelcomed revelation that the city doesn’t know what property rights it already owns, in order to get back on track approving the additional $459,000 purchase of some more property that it doesn’t need.

According to property records available from St Johns County, the outfall, a basin for graywater collected from street runoff in that section of the city, would not be directly accessible from Regan and Freeman’s “must-have” property, even if the city owned it.

The land the city would trespass, according to the land maps, is not the estate of the late Jo Meldrim; whose daughter, Carolyn Moore, is pressing the affable Troy Blevins to sell to the out-of-control John Regan and nearby-neighborhood neighbor, Commissioner Freeman.

The actual property hosting the city’s tidal flow control and street drainage system that would be needed to obtain direct access for public works is owned in equal shares by the Pierre Thompson Revocable Trust and Thompson Brothers Realty, Inc.

Oops.  Talk about a “mystery”!
Isabelle — there’s one for you in your spare moments.

When the city commission meets Monday evening, city taxpayers will show up and expect better answers from our elected and appointed officials.  The City just approved the budget for 2018-2019 and updated it’s spending priorities.  Neither building an earthen berm, acquiring a half-million-dollar parcel of tax-producing land, nor building a neighborhood park for South Davis Shores, were on the radar.

Now it appears that the urgent need to pay top-dollar for two nearby lots and a dilapidated 60-year-old house, as misrepresented by Mike Cullum, John Regan, and Leanna Freeman, will not solve any legitimate easement issue at hand.

If you plan to attend, the commission meets in the Alcazar Room of City Hall, located at 75 King Street, on Monday, January 28, 2019, beginning at 5:00 p.m.  Speaker cards are available at the back of the meeting room.  Complete one and return it to the Clerk (Darlene Galambos) if you would like to be heard by the commissioners for up to 3-minutes when called.