Saturday, July 04, 2015

DOW MUSEUM HOTEL PUD UNDER FIRE -- Front Page Article In Today's Record -- Libelous DAVID BARTON CORNEAL Accusations of Car Tire-Slashing?

Debate over Cordova Inn PUD becoming more heated
Posted: July 3, 2015 - 11:43pm
With each new zoning hearing and debate of the permit process, the tensions between neighbors and ownership of the former Dow Museum property seem to be rising.
In some instances, the disagreement has turned somewhat mean and even destructive (sic).
Property owner David Corneal, who is restoring the historic houses in the block at Cordova and Bridge streets, said he’s seen an increase in nuisance (sic) complaints to the city that claim work isn’t being done according to code — even though it would be difficult for anybody to spot subpar work unless they are on the property.
But things became particularly ugly several weeks ago when a worker at the property [allegedly] had his tires punctured. Corneal said that was the second time such an act had occurred.
“This vandalism is very wrong,” Corneal said. “My employees shouldn’t have to tolerate that.”
Corneal said he understands that many people oppose his plan to make the property an inn. But he also thinks people will like the project when it’s done and find that it isn’t particularly intrusive.
“When this is done, if it is done, the way I want to do it, it’s going to be a smash,” Corneal said. “It’s going to be a major attraction.”
Whether he gets to turn the block of historic houses into an inn has yet to be determined. He is applying for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) with the city of St. Augustine.
Corneal is in the process of completely renovating the property for what he hopes will be a boutique hotel, or inn as he refers to it. Because short-term rentals are not allowed in that block, he would need a PUD to use the property for that purpose.
However, he can offer long-term rentals of at least a month without city approval and without having to provide any additional parking.
Some nearby residents prefer having a high-end hotel to renters, while others think the addition of available rentals would be the better option.
The application for the PUD, which would allow an inn of up to 30 rooms called the Cordova Inn, was recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning Board in May.
The next step is the City Commission, but the issue was delayed by an unsuccessful appeal of an earlier demolition permit for a small building on the property referred to as the carpenter’s house.
There was fierce debate at the PZB hearing, and the same can be expected when the issue is brought up at a future commission meeting.
Some neighbors, many living on St. George Street, have placed signs in their yards to express opposition to the PUD.
Among those with the signs are Fred and Norma Novak. They said they are against the PUD because they simply don’t want a new commercial enterprise in the their neighborhood, which has the highly restrictive Historic Preservation 1 zoning.
The couple bought their home in 1994, and they’ve been permanent residents since 1998. They oppose the PUD mostly because it goes against the area’s zoning.
“We don’t want the noise; we don’t want the congestion,” Fred Novak said. “It’s going to change the complexion of the neighborhood.”
Added Norma: “We don’t want to lose more residential.”
The Novaks spoke against any kind of harassing or bullying tactics. They certainly don’t want the project, but they also didn’t express any ill will toward Corneal.
“We definitely want to show this is not a personal issue with the applicant,” Fred Novak said.
Another neighbor, Judith Fox-Fliesser, said she’s lived on St. George Street for almost 15 years and doesn’t want the Cordova Inn project to go through. She said there’s no reason to allow a deviation from the zoning restrictions.
“We want the zoning to be protected,” Fox-Fliesser said. “[A PUD] is supposed to offer a benefit to the (neighbors). So far, the benefit is protecting the historic property, but that’s already written into the code.”
Blake Souder, a Lincolnville resident opposed to the PUD, said Lincolnville wouldn’t get anything out of the PUD. In fact, Souder says, it would get stuck with the valet parking lot.
He said many of the older residents he knows in the area haven’t been able to wait at any of the long public meetings to give their input. They have concerns about adding more non-local traffic on Bridge Street, he said, just like he does.
“There are a lot of things that I’m concerned about [with the PUD],” Souder said. “If the roads and streets become blocked because of valet parking ... how are emergency vehicles going to get through?
“Public safety is my primary concern. If the PUD is approved, there’s going to be a whole lot of intensification of the area.”
Fox-Fliesser is friends with the Novaks and agreed that while she does talk with neighbors about her opposition to the Cordova Inn PUD, she doesn’t want discussions to turn into anything nasty.
“We’re trying to temper it and not make it personal,” she said. “So far, it hasn’t gotten ugly. We really try to make a point of it to try to be civil.”
Corneal said everything directed at him has certainly not always been polite. He said there have been problems with trespassing from those opposed to his project. And the puncturing of the workers’ tires was the peak of ugliness to him.
“It doesn’t make one (feel) welcome,” Corneal said. “We’ve had people come in and rant and rave at us. A number of people don’t want us here.”
Souder said it’s been the locals who support the Cordova Inn project who have been rude to him.
After speaking out at a recent public meeting, Souder said a few of those who disagreed with his sentiments were angry and swore at him.
“Outside of City Hall, it has not been civil,” Souder said. “I don’t enjoy it when it gets nasty. It’s not nice to see people acting like that.
“I’m not going to launch a personal attack. I find the whole (democratic) process stimulating.”
sponger2 07/04/15 - 05:31 am 80Perfect example.
This is a perfect example of what I have been speaking about. You go buy a house in a area where this sort of thing isn't zoned for, expecting it to be honored. That's why you bought at the particular location. That's why you paid a premium price. Then someone comes in with a idea to increase noise and traffic (which is of no benefit to you) by adding up to thirty units on property next door, and the residents are supposed to be grateful for the intrusion. Carpetbagging at it's very best. Historic preservation should mean just that. Restore a property to it's former glory without the extra nuisance value thrown in. Is the boutique price going to be affordable for the locals who live here, or just the tourists who crowd the area, annoying the tax paying residents?
On an aside note, the very idea that he wants to make it "an attraction" runs counter to everything anybody bought there would desire. The Disneyfication continues.

martystaug 07/04/15 - 07:52 am 70Carpetbagging
You are absolutely right. This city continues to encourage this type of change for the benefit of a few "carpetbaggers" at the expense of the residents. Some of these carpetbaggers have been here for generations and are surprised when any opposition arises. As a resident and homeowner since 1989, I miss the "old St. Augustine". This holiday weekend we must plan any errands to be home again before the gridlock starts. Those of us who pay for this expansion of tourism with loss of quality of life need to tell the city and developers to stop. I hope this city council will keep us in mind, obey the zoning restrictions that the rest of us must obey, and enforce the laws we already have.

Jason Hamilton 07/04/15 - 02:06 pm 11Whats the root of the problem?
Admittedly I do not live in this area of town, but I am a native along with my parents. I grew up two streets over from Cordova next to the St. Francis Inn. The Inn purchased the house across the street on St. George and nicely fixed it up to add three more rooms to the Inn's capacity. In some ways it is similar to the Dow project. Further south on Cordova there are quite a few rentals along with apartments, and the old Record building went condo as well. I am trying to understand how the Dow is going to be much different than what is already on Cordova. I can understand fully that if the Dow project does not provide on site parking for its guests and employees how that could effect the neighborhood. Outside of that I am not sure why the push back for this project. I do not remember hearing any of these concerns when the court house moved and The Casamonica took over. I don't see how this is much different than that. I have to also add that I have not been following this story too closely outside of simply knowing that it is going on. Seems short sited and a bit foolish to purchase something with big plans having not checked with the city codes of what is permissible. If the intention is to remodel with historical preservation codes in mind and run an Inn/B&B I would not have an issue personally. Look at the Hilton on the bay front and what a nice job they did for the skyline. As long as it is not rent by the hour and a neon nightmare eyesore I don't see how this location is too different from what is already going on in the neighborhood.

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