Saturday, February 27, 2016

Don't let Flagler College steal our Post Office property: Steven Cottrell column

Flagler College taking over our Post Office?
Is someone out of their cotton-picking mind? That is, first of all, our Post Office. It is, second, prime commercial property. Flagler College is the proverbial camel with its nose under the tent, the proverbial dog in the manger, Republican Lord of All It Surveys, demanding to take over everything and run residents and businesses out of town, after killing trees and destroying homes, run by humorless conservatives who don't respect academic freedom and don't grant faculty members tenure.
As Steven Cottrel asks (below), "When did “the city” make that policy determination?"
History repeats itself: five years ago there were self-serving headlines about a "plan" for Flagler College to acquire the Post Office, with quotes from reprobate Flagler College Chancellor and State Representative WILLIAM L. PROCTOR, the meanest man in St. Augustine, and Mayor JOE BOLES, a/k/a "JOSEPH L. BOLES, JR.," quite possibly the crookedest man now living in St. Augustine.
Of course, I contacted government officials in Atlanta and determined that competitive bidding was required on both ends -- selling the Post Office property and acquiring a new property elsewhere. No hick hack corruption desired or required -- bilious BOLES and PROCTOR, foiled again.
So the Post Office stays where it needs to stay.
Our post office boxes and counter service need to stay there, inviolate, forever.
The rest of the operation -- mail sorting and vehicles -- can move.
And City Hall apparatchiks who are the fawning accomplices of Flagler College, a/k/a "Flagzilla," must appreciate that commercial development of the rest of the Post Office complex on both sides of MLK is more desirable than continued tax-exempt , status.
Let Flagler College expand outside the City borders, perhaps on West King Street, former home of Florida Memorial College, which rabid racists and local businessmen helped run out of town after 1964 Civil Rights victories here.

Public Occurrences: Who sets policy at city hall?
Posted: February 21, 2016 - 8:21pm | Updated: February 22, 2016 - 12:04am

Public Occurrences
How many times have you read news articles that include the phrase, “The city supports ... ” or, “The city has agreed to ... ” and wondered exactly what — or who — is “the city?”

Legislatively and policy-wise, it is the city commissioners. It’s their job to enact local legislation and set policies, and it’s staff’s job to enforce the legislation and carry out the policies.

It’s an unambiguous component of the chain of command protocol.

The top rung of the chain of command, of course, is you.

You express your opinion every two years at the ballot box, and sometimes at public meetings.

The process is pretty simple, but there are times when it appears the tail is wagging the dog.

A recent example of protocol lines seeming to cross occurred at the Feb. 8 City Commission meeting.

Included on the agenda was a public hearing to consider code changes that might affect future Flagler College dormitory locations. An important goal of the code changes was to help ensure a better buffer between residential neighborhoods and college expansion.

The new code language — adopted on a vote of 4-1 — could result in future Flagler dorms being built beyond walking distance of the campus — perhaps even outside the city limits.

Commissioner Todd Neville — who cast the lone dissenting vote — warned that if the college has to build future dorms outside the city, it will only add to St. Augustine’s current traffic and parking woes.

Maybe it’s better to have dorms within walking distance of the campus, with on-site parking, he suggested, then to have hundreds of additional vehicles coming and going daily when the college is in session.

His cautionary words have merit.

But that issue aside, what caught my attention was how city staff responded when Commissioner Leanna Freeman asked if future use of the post office property at King Street and Martin Luther King Avenue had been discussed at planning and zoning board meetings during the broader discussion of possible code changes aimed at lessening college expansion impacts on adjoining neighborhoods.

It’s inevitable that at some point the post office will move out of downtown, so I felt her question was germane to the commission’s general discussion.

Mayor Nancy Shaver correctly noted, however, that the purpose of the public hearing was to discuss pros and cons of the proposed code change, not pros and cons of projects that may or may not come to pass,

Maybe so, but I was surprised by staff’s response to Commissioner Freeman.

Freeman asked David Birchim, director of the Planning and Building Department, “Did you talk about the post office (at PZB hearings)?”

“I think that discussion was held by the visioning committee,” he answered, adding, “Given the fact that Flagler College, I believe, owns the little parking lot to the east of the post office on King Street, and because they own the dormitories south of the post office on Cedar Street ... (the P.O.) seems to be property that was suitable for college development.”


When did “the city” make that policy determination?

The mayor reminded her colleagues, “We’re talking about zoning, we’re not talking about a specific opportunity that may or may not come to fruition,”

True, but I was puzzled by the fact that no one at the commission table questioned staff’s assumption that Flagler College will eventually take ownership of the post office property.

In fact, Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath reinforced staff’s comments when she said the post office is “the logical location for a dorm.”

Is that her personal opinion, or maybe a suggestion from the nonbinding visioning committee she recently chaired?

Since the commission has never, to my knowledge, taken a position of “no interest” in the property, why would staff or any commissioner assume that the post office will become part of Flagler College?

Maybe “the city” can develop its own plans and submit its own purchase bid once the property is on the market at some point down the road?

Hearing staff and at least one commissioner essentially concede the property to the college at a public meeting struck me as premature.

Maybe there’s a higher and better use for that parcel than razing the post office and building another college dorm?

Sure hope so.

Steve Cottrell can be contacted at

SkateG 02/22/16 - 01:56 pm 40Amen!
Given its size and location, the post office lot has great commercial potential. Mr. Cottrell is exactly correct, the city staff and Commission should not assume the lot will go to Flagler. It has tremendous commercial potential and could contribute property tax revenue to this revenue-challenged city. Just because it's not currently on the tax rolls, doesn't mean it shouldn't be.

On the expansion of Flagler in downtown CoSA, I don't agree with Mr. Cottrell or Mr. Neville. The college should start thinking differently and recognize that its future is west of US 1. Perhaps Mr. Neville can inspire students making the trip to downtown classrooms from dorms west of US 1 to use bikes?

If allowed, Flagler College will consume St Augustine the way Godzilla dealt with Tokyo.


Jason Hamilton 02/22/16 - 02:10 pm 21@Steve
Good article. Do you (or anyone) know who owns the property now? Is it the cities with a lease to the Postal Service? Also do you know how Flagler came to own the east parking lot of the post office? I always assumed it was part of the post office's property. I know the parking lot and structure west of the post office is owned by the Masonic Lodge (where St. Johns Printing is). Seems like buying one of the three homes on MLK ,between Cedar and King, would be a good investment because Pac-Man, I mean Flagler likely wants to gobble them up. Has anyone conducted a study that would illustrate exactly how Flagler Collage financially adds to the city? Understandably the students buy some things here, like food and drinks. Some students live off campus so they add by contributing through paying rent, and buying gas. I know the collage is not going anywhere, nor am I suggesting that it should. I just want to know what is the impact Flagler has in total vs. if all the incorporated properties were still on the tax roster with residents/businesses occupying them. In my life I have watched the school grow larger and larger. The bigger it has become the more power and influence it is wielding. Steve's article seems to prove this. It is the unelected 6th commissioner and they are setting policy with it in mind. I feel that they (city officials) consider Flagler's well being far more than they do for the tax paying electret. With the manifest destiny the collage exuding if they are not already a silent partner they soon will be.

Archer 02/22/16 - 06:29 pm 10Check out the Tax Rolls
for Flagler College.

sfc1942 02/22/16 - 06:54 pm 21Jason: Thanks –– appreciate

Thanks –– appreciate your input.

Based on a news article in The Record from 2010, the property used to be owned by Flagler College and they sold it to the USPS. Now, I guess, the college would like to get it back when it's available?

In 2010 there was discussion about moving the P.O. out to the Ponce de Leon shopping center and the college buying the King Street building for something in the neighborhood of $1.5-$1.8 million. Nothing came of it, but City Hall even then seemed resigned to Flagler taking back ownership of the parcel.

It’s the gateway to Lincolnville, and future use of the property deserves some community discussion. Maybe this column will help energize that discussion?

Thanks again for your comments.

Steve Cottrell

Archer 02/22/16 - 07:35 pm 20City isn't "resigned"
It is bought and paid for.

lopuser 02/23/16 - 12:40 pm 40Flagler Doesn't Need Another Dormitory
Flagler is currently planning a major new building project (already approved) on their property on Riberia St. This project will include a new dormitory, a three-story parking garage, and a third structure that will include a workout facility, food service and other amenities. The College has been saying for years that it doesn't have any plans to grow while it has continued to purchase additional property, build buildings and increase enrollment from a few hundred students to more than 2,500 presently. If Flagler has no plans to grow why do they need additional dormitories? The Commission made the absolute correct decision by not allowing any more dormitories in commercial or residential zones, without an "exception." The only way to control the unending growth of Flagler is to set tough zoning laws and enforcie them. Flagler will consume the entire City if the residents don't elect commissioners who care more about the City than they do about accommodating the needs or wishes of any other commercial or institutional interest?

Archer 02/23/16 - 03:13 pm 30@lopuser
Well said! The loop-holes are gargantuan... large enough to fit all of Flagler College through them.

FC has been given a golden ticket to consume downtown whole, and before even a tiny burp erupts, they're on to the next project.

Commissioner Neville fully supports Flagler College and all its development. Remember that in two years.

FC is one of the major reasons why we need professional oversight and members on the citizen boards, such as HARB and PZB.

If Flagler must grow, then do satellite locations out of downtown and in the county. We must not squander what is left of our heritage on this bully.

SAY NO AND MEAN NO. Elect ONLY those who will do the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Odd Todd also endorsed Marco Rubio the other night at a rally in St. John's County. Marco consistently misses casting his votes in the Senate. I wonder if that's what Odd Todd admires most about Marco?