Regulation of Hamilton Upchurch Neighborhood Park debated

Special provisions in a larger proposed ordinance to deal with issues at city parks, venues, and facilities, will affect Hamilton Upchurch Neighborhood Park, which is on Red Cox Drive at Anastasia Boulevard.  The facility includes a controversial skateboarding area, and is named after Mayor Tracy Upchurch’s father.

The final reading and a public hearing needed to enact the proposed ordinance could be heard as early as next Monday, March 23, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., when the city commissioners meet again in open session.

  • The proposed ordinance says that the City Commission would evaluate each noise permit request for the park and would “only approve amplification of sound in a westerly direction.”
  • The applicant would also have to provide for monitoring to make sure the sound level doesn’t violate the City Code.
  • Skating events, which by their very nature generate a lot of noise, would not be allowed to have amplified music — just amplified announcements.
  • A plan review approved by the city commission would be required before any “temporary or permanent skating infrastructure” or other features that could cause noise is added to Hamilton Upchurch Neighborhood Park. Part of the evaluation of each application would include considering any impact the noise would have on the residents of Lighthouse Park and the rest of the neighborhood.  An acoustical engineering analysis, that didn’t appear to have universal support, would be part of that evaluation.

The mayor said during the first reading of the proposed ordinance that he would prefer not to include some of the language, including the engineering analysis requirement because he believes requiring City Commission approval for park changes is enough.  He said he is empathetic to neighborhood concerns, but other neighborhoods coexist with other venues and parks, such as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and Francis Field.

“For me, I think what it does is it just recognizes that it is built next door to residences, and although the amphitheater exists next door to residences, it is not without issues, whether it be parking or noise,” Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman said.  “For me, this recognizes that there’s protection for residents that we don’t want to fluctuate with politics.”  She supported going ahead with the added language.

With apparent concern for the use of big words and no pictures, Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline said in a comment to a Record reporter, “It’s quite a substantial ordinance for the community to digest.” Yes, it is, Nancy.  Yes, it is.  But you voted for it anyway.  We will see how you do next time.