Guest: News and Views of 2019

The St Augustine Report
by former Mayor George Gardner
2002-2006

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.  Mayor Nancy Shaver resigns following stroke and recurrence of breast cancer

2.  Hurricane Dorian threat skirts city

3.  Plans for amphitheater on mission grounds blocked

4.  Short-term rental regulations near adoption

5.  State purchases Fish Island

6.  Carousel leaves Davenport Park

7.  St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick fired

8.  American Legion Post 37 vacates Hamblen House; Harry’s Seafood Grill takes over

9.  May/San Marco intersection redesign completed

10. Candidate residency requirement adopted; mayoral election process unchanged


January

City purchases two marshfront lots in Davis Shores for $459,000 / City begins study for regulation of vacation rental market / Harry’s Seafood Grill pursues lease for neighboring Hamblen House, vacated in September by American Legion Post 37 due to financial difficulties / Commissioners approve a public/private collaboration to convert an alleyway strip of Cuna Street for on-street dining / Proposed ordinance makes Planning and Zoning Board the reviewing authority for removal of “significant” trees / New mobile parking app “will allow users to pay for parking in all city managed parking locations without having to use a parking meter or pay station”

February

Commissioners call for “a whole new agreement” with the University of Florida to replace a 2010 memorandum of understanding after complaints of big screen football games in the Colonial Quarter and big volume bands at Government House. / Easter Parade to move from traditional Sunday to the Saturday before Easter / Mayor Nancy Shaver resigns after suffering stroke, cancer reoccurring

March

City Commission names former Mayor Tracy Upchurch to succeed Mayor Nancy Shaver / Heavy duty wheelchairs now available at the Visitor Information Center / Mission Nombre de Dios Director defends plan to build an 800-seat amphitheater, says annual Cathedral Festival will require “looking to find a new home for it”

April

Mission, neighbors battle over development plans / Artist Degas at the Lightner / Harry’s to reopen Hamblen House / City Charter goes to review / 70,000 homestead properties would undergo county audit / Easter Parade moves from Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning

May

San Sebastian Winery plans market, restaurant / Community survey says mobility is major concern / Gateway to St. Augustine concept at US 1 and King Street proposed / North Florida Land Trust will purchase Fish Island

June

Short-term rental committee planned / Budget Director Meredith Breidenstein to be named assistant city manager with retirement of Tim Burchfield in October / Tom and Jean Rahner nominated for the Order of la Florida Award. / HARB pre-approves hub signage for more than a dozen bike share locations / Architect Les Thomas named for Adelaide Sanchez Award for Historic Restoration and Preservation / Joe Tringali of Carmelo’s and 123 Burger House on King Street purchases neighboring Giggling Gator

July

State purchases Fish Island for conservation / Parking adjustments for 2020 to include short-term garage parking and Sunday parking enforcement / Diocese of St. Augustine bid for vesting to allow it to build an 800-seat amphitheater rejected / Outdoor dining on a portion of Cuna Street approved / City Commission approves 4-hour meeting limit / Seven-member short term rental committee created with a 60-day window to provide recommendations / Historic Architectural Review Board approves installation of bicycle racks and wayfinding signs at more than a dozen locations for its bike share program / Survey created for short-term rentals

August

City removes 200 parking meters, replacing them with pay stations / Historic Architectural Review Board approves re-installation of former lighted metal letters on the front of City Hall-Alcazar Hotel / Coquina Avenue wood frame cottage given to Florida Agricultural Museum / Eight sites suggested for a performing arts center in St. Johns County, epicenter appears to be St. Augustine / City commissioners approve a marker in the Plaza de la Constitución describing the lynching of Isaac Barrett in 1897 / City Commission approves second Mediated Settlement for the “Wedding House” – Sanchez House at 7 Bridge Street

September

A $60 million city budget for the next fiscal year focuses on flood control and personnel / Tom and Jean Rahner receive the Order of La Florida Award / Hurricane Dorian skirts city / Davenport Park carousel removed / Short-term rental regulation recommendations presented / City Archaeologist Andrea White defends Sunday night work in area of remains of Church of Los Remedios / Ordinance to regulate cultivation, distribution, and retail sale of hemp and hemp extract advances / Facebook group spearheads a drive to replace the carousel removed from Davenport Park / Historic Architectural Review Board approves a Tolomato parking lot redesign to accommodate delivery truck parking

October

City of St. Augustine updates website / Lightner Museum Executive Director Robert Harper retires / Vesting rights approved for White’s Wharf LLC development of a new restaurant on the Santa Maria site / The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios elevated to a National Shrine / Mayor Tracy Upchurch and former Mayor Nancy Shaver complete a two-day Florida Mayors Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the American Flood Coalition / City Commission passes on first reading authorization for a referendum on the question of whether the mayor should be elected by commissioners or public vote.

November

Candidate residency requirement adopted, mayoral election process unchanged / Reuben Franklin named public works director, former director Mike Cullum becomes chief resiliency officer and Deputy Public Works Director Todd Grant becomes utility department director / Buffered bicycle lanes replace medians and parking on US 1 in Florida Department of Transportation resurfacing plan / Groundbreaking Ceremonies conducted for future permanent St. Augustine VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic / City Commission approves $700,000 to further the mini‐grant program for sewer connections in West Augustine / Visitor Services Manager Sharon Langford, Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield and Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson retire / Commissioners kill proposal for referendum on whether the mayor should be elected by the public or appointed by fellow commissioners / St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick fired / Consulting team for the city’s grant project “Resilient Heritage in the Nation’s Oldest City” is introduced / Ten pairs of solar recycling and trash units installed along St. George Street as part of the city’s sustainability program.

December

May/San Marco intersection redesign completed / Historic Architectural Review Board has approved a crosswalk on Avenida Menendez and Marine Street for access to the Municipal Marina / Florida Department of Transportation is designing a 10-12 foot wide sidewalk along the Mission of Nombre de Dios grounds between Pine Street to Ocean Way as part of the North City Trail route /  Flagler College religion professor discovers a Spanish-Timucua book previously unknown to scholars, published in Mexico in 1628 / 921 housing units in US 1 north future / Three ordinances regulating short-term rentals passed to second reading and public hearings at January 13 2020 City Commission meeting


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.