Monday, December 14, 2015

Record columnist skewers PAUL M. WEAVER, III, HARB Vice Chair (Updated)

Time for conflicted parasite PAUL M. WEAVER, III to resign from Historic Architectural Review Board?

Time for conflicted parasite PAUL M. WEAVER, III to resign from Historic Architectural Review Board?

PAUL M. WEAVER, III is the very conflicted Vice Chair of the Historic Architectural Review Board, a participant in the all-white St. Augustine Sister Cities group, whose services are frequently purchased by applicants for demolitions and other HARB favors, including Pennsylvania developer-speculator DAVID BARTON CORNEAL, who hired 40% of HARB members (WEAVER and then-member Jeremy Marquis) in connection with his meretricious purchase of the $2.1 million state-funded Dow Museum of Historic Homes and its conversion into $500/night hotel rooms, after destroying 105-year old Carpenter's House based on false and misleading testimony. WEAVER was overheard bragging to CORNEAL about convincing neighboring nuns to support the projection, with CORNEAL stating WEAVER could "sell ice cubes to eskimos." WEAVER and ex-Commissioner DONALD CRICHLOW were overheard stating "we're f---ed" when PZB members attached a restriction on no special events to the DOW PUD (CORDOVA INN) approval. That restriction may become moot tonight if a controversial proposal, ordinance No. 2015-32, is approved, permitting the CIty of St. Augustine City Manager to determine "vested rights" of property owners to hold special events, without appeal or vote by the PZB, HARB or City Commission.

Here's Steve Cottrell's column in this morning's St. Augustine Record about PAUL WEAVER and his contempt for "average Joes" serving on City Boards. In WEAVER's defense, he's pompous but hardly an elitist -- both his B.S and M.A. degrees are from the University of Florida, where the law library closes on home football game days. WEAVER is, however, as pompous and lugubrious goober as ever made a chair squeak -- serving as Acting Chair of HARB, he once limited me to two minutes (not the usual three) on the pretext the room had to be vacated by 7:30 (we got out in plenty of time, and the speaker from Colorado was invited to inform the public about historic preservation).

Do you reckon that PAUL WEAVER is both a snob and a hack and a tool of the "special interests" he decried in his bellowing angry-man screed? (Please do read it below, below the second column).

Is it time for PAUL WEAVER to resign from HARB, like Joseph Kronk and LEN WEEKS before him?

P.P.S. This presents the same problem as PZB Chair SUE AGRESTA's letter last year to the Record, identifying herself as such. There was no disclaimer from PAUL M. WEAVER, III stating that his opinions are his own and not of the City government. How déclassé, gauche and louche.

Steve Cottrell: Reader feedback caught my attention
St. Augustine Record
Posted: December 13, 2015 - 6:54pm | Updated: December 14, 2015 - 12:00am
Public Occurrences
It is not unusual to get feedback from readers — always appreciated, good or bad — but a response to my Nov. 30 column certainly caught my attention.
On The Record’s blog site, Paul Weaver, vice chair of the St. Augustine Historic Architectural Review Board, wrote that he was insulted by my suggestion that interested average citizens ought to have an opportunity to serve on city advisory boards. He said my column was misguided, especially as it related to HARB, I suppose.
The term “average Joes” appeared in my column’s heading. For emphasis, I guess, it appeared six times in the vice chair’s online response.
His repeated use of the phrase seemed disparaging in its context, so Mr. Weaver needs to know that the term average Joes was chosen by opinion editor Jim Sutton who edits the page, not by me. No big deal, but since Weaver was so emphatic as to include the phrase half a dozen times in his blog comment, he deserves an explanation.
Although the vice chair found my opinion piece misguided and insulting, average citizens might feel insulted by a misguided belief that only folks with certain degrees and professional credentials are capable of understanding issues HARB must consider before rendering informed, intelligent decisions.
As I indicated in a response to Mr. Weaver, I believe he underestimates the intelligence of average citizens. And that means that unless you represent a certain profession, or have the appropriate college degree, he apparently underestimates you.
I’m sure Mr. Weaver is a nice guy — and his resume is certainly impressive — but I respectfully disagree with his claim that only certain professionals should serve on HARB. (Or on other city advisory boards, for that matter).
Maybe he thought I was suggesting that all current HARB professionals be replaced with a new board comprised solely of average citizens?
That, of course, was not the point of the column; nor did I suggest such a radical idea.
The vice-chair claimed that to receive funding and technical assistance from federal and state agencies, HARB must include professionals qualified in history, architecture and archaeology.
Fair enough. But the city’s website says that people without certain degrees or professional experience can serve on HARB, “ ... when persons with such degrees are not available for appointment, or when such appointment is determined to be in the best interest of the city.”
I wonder how often that happens?
The vice chair claimed that placing Average Joes on HARB “would undermine its credibility as a professional board.” He went on to ask, “How can one make authoritative decisions that are subject to judicial revue (sic) if one is not an authority?”
Heck, city commissioners make authoritative decisions subject to judicial review twice a month, and they don’t have to be authorities on any subject — except, perhaps, getting elected and re-elected.
In his recent comments, the HARB vice chair wondered, “Does Mr. Cottrell think ‘Average Joe’s’ are just as qualified as professional journalists or editorial writers? I doubt it.”
Actually, I think any person who can write well and express a point of view that adds to the community dialogue is, indeed, qualified to be a journalist.
Especially an editorial writer.
Some of the best newspaper writers we read on a regular basis lack a journalism degree, or a college degree of any kind.
And some of the best editorial columns published in this newspaper have been written by laypeople without any journalism training.
Writing well and demonstrating knowledge does not require a degree. Maya Angelou, Ray Bradbury, William Faulkner and a host of others have proven that.
Mark Twain once wrote, “A thunderstorm made Beranger a poet, a mother’s kiss made Benjamin West a painter, and a salary of $15 a week makes us a journalist.”
Lord knows, I’m no Mark Twain, but I think I’m a decent writer. I’ll admit, however, I do not have a degree in journalism, nor in any other academic discipline.
I’m just an average citizen who enjoys commenting on public occurrences that affect the community.
You might even call me an average Joe.
Which means I’ll probably never serve on HARB.

Steve can be contacted at


1565pedro 12/14/15 - 11:12 am 01Steve Cottrell: Reader feedback caught my attention
Mr. Cottrell, thanks for your response to my letter. However, you left out several of my points. Your editorial piece did not clarify the qualifications for service. Lay people with experience in Historic Preservation should be able to serve on HARB and they have. As a matter of fact one of our best HARB members was a master gardener.

You also discount the importance of having professionals on HARB. The substance of your opinion piece is that anybody can do it. I respectfully disagree. Don’t gamble with something you can’t afford to lose. Our city’s historic resources are irreplaceable and non-renewable and the basis of our highly successful, heritage tourism based economy. HARB members are highly dedicated stewards of these resources. If the professional qualifications are removed or softened, Mr. Cottrell is naïve to think we will have “Average Joes” on HARB. They will more likely be political appointees with special interests and agendas.

And yes, if you have demonstrated interest and experience in historic preservation, please apply. We need good people on HARB.

I would appreciate it if you would print this response in letters to the editor.

Paul Weaver, Vice-Chairman

wombat 12/14/15 - 12:36 pm 20STEVE COTTRELL, GREAT PIECE, WELL WRITTEN.
Thanks for a well thought out piece of writing. I always enjoy reading your work.

martystaug 12/14/15 - 12:48 pm 30Average Joe's with no
Average Joe's with no personal or business interests in the fate of historical buildings might be beneficial to the integrity of the HARB, as well as other city advisory boards. People willing to invest their time and efforts, instead of their money to determine the fate of St. Augustine's old buildings. People who will not benefit financially from the fate of those buildings. Especially people who have never demolished any old buildings to make way for new business enterprises. Experience is important, but integrity is even more important if we are going to save historic St. Augustine from the unrelenting push for more tourist dollars. Historic St. Augustine is not just a tourism resource. It is our home.

SkateG 12/14/15 - 01:12 pm 20More Joe's - Fewer Pros!
Martystaug hits it out of the park! We must decrease the influence of the so-called experts on our advisory boards. These "pros" have a huge financial interest in advancing the interests of developers. As noted in Steve Cottrell's piece, City Code already allows people with knowledge and passion for historic preservation but lacking in the required formal degrees and professional credentials to serve on the HARB. A few smart people with integrity and good judgement and without a financial interest in currying favor with developers is badly needed in this town. We have more than enough self-serving "pros" on our boards.

Jason Hamilton 12/14/15 - 01:59 pm 10Average vs. Any
I am with Mr. Cottrell that the job could be done successfully by an average Joe. I also get Mr. Weaver's point that not just any Joe could handle the position. Seems part of the hang up might be semantic in nature. The word average does not imply substandard, but rather reasonable and adequate. I am not sure if the fear is that some undereducated person might be put on the board, or if in doing so it might dull the shine of credentials for those already serving. One thing I do know is assigning credit is not all that important, but the team winning is. Who did what is best left for the victory party.

Steve Cottrell: City boards should include 'average Joes'
Posted: November 29, 2015 - 11:34pm | Updated: November 30, 2015 - 12:02am
Syndicated Columnist
Have you ever wanted to serve on a St. Augustine city advisory board but your background and experience didn’t match the requirements for appointment?
Maybe you had an interest in serving on the Planning & Zoning Board? Maybe the Historic Architectural Review Board, or the Code Enforcement, Adjustments and Appeals Board?
They are commonly referred to as the PZB, HARB and CEAAB.
Volunteer advisory boards serve an important function, but it seems to me the requirements for appointment are so narrowly structured that good men and women are eliminated from consideration simply because their experience or livelihood is inconsistent with qualifications for the board on which they’d like to serve.
The city has a professional staff with expertise in any topic that might appear on any board agenda. And any member of any board can seek advice from city staff.
But if, for example, you have an interest in the PZB, you must meet one of the following qualifications (and be licensed): architect; planner member APA or AICP; real estate broker; educator, college level; engineer; landscape architect; preservation organization officer; environmental or land use organization officer; attorney; merchant/business person; contractor.”
How about the HARB?
“All members of the Historic Architectural Review Board shall have either thorough training and/or experience in history or related fields, archaeology, architectural history, historic architecture or art history.”
The city website goes on to explain, “Persons who have demonstrated special interest, experience or knowledge in history, architecture or related disciplines who do not have a professional degree in any of the aforementioned fields may be appointed by the city commission when persons with such degrees are not available for appointment, or when such appointment is determined to be in the best interest of the city.”
The CEAAB at least has some wiggle room for interested average citizens, but not much. “(The board) when possible shall include: an architect, business person, engineer, general contractor, subcontractor or Realtor.”
So what’s wrong with a chef, with a lifetime in the kitchen but a deep interest in local history, serving on the HARB? Or a store clerk on the PZB? Or a nurse on the CEAAB?
Is the city saying that any registered voter with a St. Augustine address — regardless of IQ, background or education — can be a city commissioner or mayor, but only certain professionals can serve on subordinate advisory boards?
In my opinion, that’s goofy.
Under the current policy, a huge amount of knowledge, experience and energy has been effectively removed from board consideration.
Your favorite bartender might have a lot more common sense and commitment to public service than an architect or archaeologist who have also applied for an HARB vacancy, but what chance does the mixologist have of being appointed? You’re right, it’s zero.
St. Augustine operates like other cities; it has rules and regulations that any reasonably intelligent person can understand. And if there’s something they don’t understand, city hall has a bevy of qualified staff members who will provide an explanation.
Every city advisory board uses the same rule book. Regulations and ordinances are available for anyone who has an interest in reading them and then applying them at board meetings.
It’s not all that complicated.
College degrees and impressive-looking initials after a person’s name are great, but they don’t necessary translate into smart decision-making skills. (And sometimes, frankly, quite the opposite).
It’s kind of like the Wizard of Oz. Once the curtain was pulled back, we learned that the Wiz was no more endowed with special knowledge and insight than his subjects. In some respects, the same can be said of the city commission and its advisory boards.
I look forward to the day when a nail-banging laborer has the same opportunity to serve on the PZB as the general contractor who employs them.
Or the day when a substitute schoolteacher with a plot at the community garden has the same opportunity to serve on the HARB as a landscape architect.
But I won’t be holding my breath while I wait for that day to arrive.
Steve Cottrell can be contacted at

1565pedro 12/01/15 - 03:37 pm 21City Boards should include average Joes?
I have never met Steve Cottrell but I wonder if he is related to former United States Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska? Senator Hruska is the one who famously said, “Shouldn’t mediocre judges be represented on the United States Supreme Court?” Mr. Cottrell thinks “Average Joes” including chefs, bartenders, and community gardeners are just as qualified to serve on HARB as professional historians, architects and archaeologists. Is he serious?

I find Mr. Cottrell’s opinion piece not only misguided but insulting. I have nothing against chefs, bartenders and gardeners, but how does he possibly think that they are just as qualified as historians such as Dr. Michael Gannon, Dr. Eugene Lyon , Dr. William Adams, and Dr. Susan Parker, archaeologists such as Dr. Kathy Deagan and Carl Halbirt, and preservation architects such as Ken Smith and Herschel Shepard, all major contributors to historic preservation in St. Augustine? Does Mr. Cottrell think “Average Joes” are just as qualified as professional journalists or editorial writers? I doubt it.

The City of St. Augustine is currently regarded as the leading local government in historic preservation in the State of Florida. HARB is an important component of this program. We have one of the strongest preservation ordinances in the nation and the city has never looked better and been better preserved. If you have any doubts, ask the millions of visitors who come here every year to visit our well preserved historic resources.

Moreover, the City of St. Augustine is a Certified Local Government (CLG), a program sponsored by the National Park Service. The City of St. Augustine receives funding and technical assistance from the state and federal government. As a requirement, the City must maintain a board with professionals qualified in history, architecture and archaeology. By placing “Average Joes” on HARB the city would lose this funding and technical assistance and undermine its credibility as a professional board.

Placing “Average Joes” on HARB would also be a liability and place the City at financial risk. Applicants to HARB are often represented by land use attorneys and expert witnesses. These are not “Average Joes.” HARB is a quasi-judicial body and deals with complex issues. How can one make authoritative decisions that are subject to judicial revue if one is not an authority? Although HARB’s decisions are not always popular, they are seldom appealed to the City Commission because they are sound (sic), based on facts and reasoned interpretation of the guidelines. In fact, one HARB decision has been upheld all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.

In recent years, individuals from the far left to the far right have criticized HARB decisions. In my view the criticisms were not generally based on substance but on political or financial interests that were not achieved. Proposed solutions have been to add more members, as Franklin Roosevelt tried to stack the United States Supreme Court, or to water down qualifications as Mr. Cottrell suggests.
Don’t gamble with something you can’t afford to lose. Our city’s historic resources are irreplaceable and non-renewable and the basis of our highly successful, heritage tourism based economy. HARB members are highly dedicated stewards of these resources. If the professional qualifications are removed or softened, Mr. Cottrell is naïve to think we will have “Average Joes” on HARB. They will more likely be political appointees with special interests and agendas.

Paul L. Weaver, III, MA
Vice Chairman, HARB

sfc1942 12/03/15 - 09:36 am 10Thanks for commenting
Mr. Weaver:

Appreciate your comments, but I believe you underestimate the intelligence of average citizens –– both as potential HARB members and as journalists.

Steve Cottrell

martystaug 12/03/15 - 12:45 pm 00What kind of expertise is needed?
Should HARB members have experience renovating old buildings, or experience demolishing old buildings to make room for new business?

PAUL M. WEAVER, III et pals at yet another all-white St. Augustine Sister Cities delegation visit to Aviles, Spain

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Notice how Mr. Weaver worked in the tourist industry. Having owned property in St Augustine for over 25 years it is plainly obvious to me that money rules and common sense looses. If you have money and promise the tourist industry more money you can build hotels in residential areas - you can erect bars next to schools and you can tear down historic houses. I say to Mr. Weaver who are you trying to kid - its not about history - its anout chasing the almighty buck. If you were concrened about history the first thing this city would do is remove the the "historic" stainless steel utility boxes in the oldest town square in America...HARB...what a joke!