Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hometown Democracy at Its Finest: Preserve Trees, Neighbors Ask; Unconstitutional Sign Ordinance Invalidated

On April 26th, St. Augustine Beach Commissioners invalidated an unconstitutional sign ordinance, one of my pet peeves since 2006. Thank you.

Then they spent 2.5 hours coping with a greedy developer's tree-killing. The developer, JAY McGARVEY, had a lawyer and a court reporter, and all but the court reporter left early, on the excuse he had an "appointment." "Where are you going?," I asked. "Why does baloney reject the grinder?"

The neighbors were persistent, well-researched, calm and passionate -- they care about the peaceful quiet enjoyment of their trees and aren't putting up with flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.

Commissioners and new City Attorney Jim Wilson are on the joine b, working the issues.

It's a new day at St. Augustine Beach. Sometimes I feel like an opossum -- every day I wake up in a new world!

Some sign rules suspended in St. Augustine Beach; residents also voice concerns about Ocean Ridge
Posted: April 26, 2016 - 11:30pm | Updated: April 27, 2016 - 5:09am


St. Augustine Beach commissioners passed a resolution that suspends a portion of its sign code — a measure that comes after a lawsuit was filed challenging some of the city’s sign rules.

The special meeting Tuesday night was originally scheduled only to discuss the Ocean Ridge development, but the sign resolution was added, along with an item for purchasing audio-video supplies. Most of the meeting centered around the Ocean Ridge subdivision, and city officials are looking into concerns that residents brought up at the informational session.

The sign resolution passed at the meeting means the city has suspended enforcement of its “regulations governing temporary, non-commercial speech as those regulations relate to the city’s sign code,” according to the city. The vote to approve the resolution was unanimous.

According to a memo from Beach City Attorney Jim Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, in 2015 affected sign regulations in municipal codes.

“Sign code provisions which separately categorized or classified temporary non-commercial signs, such as political signs or ‘for rent’ signs, based upon the information conveyed, are now subject to strict scrutiny rather than intermediate scrutiny by the courts,” according to the memo.

Based on that, Wilson recommended the city stop enforcing all regulations on temporary noncommercial speech related to the sign code. He said he plans to work on new sign regulations and bring them back to the commission.

One provision of the code that now won’t be enforced prohibits people from putting a political sign out more than 20 days before an election, Wilson said in an interview.

The decision is related to a lawsuit filed against the city in March in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville by the Edmonds Family Partnership. That case is ongoing.

The plaintiff owns property in St. Augustine Beach, according to a court document. The complaint claims that sections of the city’s sign regulations are unconstitutional.

Ocean Ridge

An informational session on the Ocean Ridge development drew a standing-room-only crowd at City Hall and extensive public comment about concerns over the development and its potential impact.

While the project has already been approved, both the developer and residents were seeking changes to the plans.

Land clearing at the roughly 23-acre property near 11th Street and Mickler Boulevard stirred concern and interest in March, according to a previous Record story. The project was approved close to 10 years ago by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board and is slated to be a more than 70-lot community with entry from 11th Street.

Commissioner Gary Snodgrass said the comments from residents needed to be addressed as soon as possible. Concerns included impact to wildlife, stormwater drainage for the property, a pedestrian and bicycle path and whether current tree rules should apply to the subdivision.

Wilson said he planned to look into some concerns with city staff today.

In addition to giving residents the chance to share concerns, the meeting allowed developer Jay McGarvey to speak to the crowd.

“I think we all want the same thing,” McGarvey said as he walked around the lectern so he could face the audience. “We want St. Augustine Beach to be beautiful. We want it to be attractive, and we want to represent as much of the original character of the community as possible.”

McGarvey described the history of the project, how it had initially been a Planned Unit Development with a provision for a park but was rejected. Then the project was approved under existing zoning and received an extended completion date. He cited saving trees as one of his top priorities.

As he has mentioned before, he said he plans to bring back a proposal to the City Commission to allow for flexible setbacks in the development, which he said would allow him to save more trees.

Some commissioners seemed to be willing to consider changes alongside addressing residents’ concerns.

McGarvey said he wants the setback flexibility and also wants to keep the current rights of the property.

If not, he’ll just move forward with the current plan, he said.

One point of concern was over which rules should apply to the property.

Wilson said the city codes in place at the time the development are what should apply, which means tree regulations passed after the project was approved wouldn’t apply.

However, Carolyn Karger, of St. Augustine Beach, said minutes from a 2007 beach planning board meeting showed that a former city attorney said new tree regulations could be imposed on Ocean Ridge.

“My understanding is that this development is subject to the current tree ordinances,” Karger said.

Snodgrass said he wants more information about the difference between the new and old tree regulations and the impact of the differences.

Morris1 04/27/16 - 01:53 am 60Does anyone know:
... how many specimen oaks the property contains? I would imagine quite a few.

Put me in the camp who supports whatever setback or buffer concessions that need to be made to the plat, if it means not bulldozing any more of those old Live Oak trees. Of course, we do have to be mindful that any requested setback concessions legitimately correspond to a quantifiable need to save specific trees.

Pretty much all home-grown Floridian's view Live Oaks as culturally iconic. We really should consider not cutting them down anymore. At least not the big ones. If it comes down to a lawsuit over which tree ordnance applies, the Sierra Club will provide legal resources to municipalities acting in the interests of environmental stewardship against commercial interests who push the envelope.

Raymond Newdell 04/27/16 - 07:28 am 40Little signs
You know what signs bug me- the little 2-prong signs that are just stuck in the ground, you know the type. They spring up like weeds- count them as you drive between any 2 points on A1A, say the 312 light and the light at Dondanville Rd- you will see at least 20 and I have seen as many as 47.


Morris1 04/27/16 - 11:50 am 20I absolutely hate those things.
There are limits on what can be done as far as non-commercial speech but "We Buy Homes", "Cash Advance Loans", "Burn Fat Fast" or the like should be totally banned.

No comments: