Sunday, May 22, 2016


Repulsive, biased, uninformed 5/22 Record editorial says "we" must not stand up to developers or things could be much worse at Sebastian Inland Harbor, originally a superfund site, sold by the City to prior developer who broke its promises and went bankrupt. Specious illogic, giving in to customary corporate blackmail in Northeast Florida. This is more journalistic malpractice from misguided misanthropes who only know how to cower to power.  The land was originally City land, sold to schemers who falsely claimed to be planning to build a Westin Hotel; the schemers went bankrupt.
In today's senseless scribbling, good-ole-boy Flagler College alumni St. Augustine Record Opinion Editor, JAMES SUTTON, warns us not to stand up to developers, making a classic logical fallacy -- what Folio Weekly longtime editor Anne Schindler (now with First Coast News) called a "GEORGE McCLURE argument" -- give developers whatever they want or they could do much worse. This argument is blackmail -- raw naked political posturing threatening our government. This is sick, unworthy of even a right-wing Republican hick hack developer-coddling viewspaper:

Editorial: At San Sebastian Inland Harbor, be careful what you wish for
Posted: May 22, 2016 - 5:00am

Monday, St. Augustine will decide whether or not to extend a Planned Unit Development pact with the developer of Sebastian Inland Harbor — an estimated $80 million project at build-out, along the San Sebastian River. This will be the largest project in the history of the city, and almost certainly the largest one that will ever be built, simply because it’s the last of the large tracts of land available.

Reporter Sheldon Gardner is writing about the PUD extension request in Monday’s Record, so we won’t till the same field here. This is more a cautionary tale.

The bottom line is that the city can OK the 10-year extension or deny it. But it’s important to understand upfront that the current developer inherited the PUD, and the many stalls and missteps that have pushed it up against its 2017 expiration date were not fault of the current project.

A PUD is nothing more or less than a negotiation between a developer and a municipality. You can clear the table of existing zoning and land use constrictions and start from scratch. The existing San Sebastian PUD contains several perks for the city and its residents — aside from millions of dollars of eventual property and sales tax revenue from the hotels, shops, bars, conventions, marina and more. If the PUD expires, that can go away.

It is possible that a new PUD could extract more from the developer than the existing one, but it’s unlikely. A more realistic scenario is that, if commissioners do not agree to the extension, the developer will do the project under the existing land use regulations, without any of the earlier concessions or design parameters.

The deal could be much worse, and the project much less aesthetic under the former Residential General Office category, which allows everything San Sebastian currently seeks, without the community and cultural lagniappe.

The city just went through a similar situation with the Madeira development north of town. It refused to extend the PUD, found out quickly that it was treading on legal quicksand and reversed the decision. But perhaps, the main point was that it could punish the developer for not completing the project in a timely manner, but to what advantage? It further stalls an arrested development, while tax revenues wallow in a black hole.

A similar example is a hot button at St. Augustine Beach. The Ocean Ridge developer sought a PUD back in 2005. It was turned down by the PZB and commission in 2006. The recession hit. Things stalled. And now, 10 years later, the project is moving ahead under the existing land use codes — minus a 3.5-acre public park that was a part of the PUD. The proposed park consists of the center ridge of the property, the high ground and focal point of the 23.5-acre maritime hammock — turned cul de sac.

We expect some pushback Monday from neighbors in Lincolnville. The project will bring traffic down King Street, but includes a 600-plus car parking facility to keep them in once they arrive. The point is, that the issue needs to be clearly outlined for residents, both pro and con. Believe this. Something’s going to be built there, and it could be better or worse.

The city’s not going to buy it out for another riverfront passive park.

Years ago, neighbors in the Linda Mar development at the Beach banded together to stop construction of a bank next to their properties. It had a drive-thru window, which needed an exception. The neighbors won the argument, the bank moved on and sold the land. Months later that garish temple to neon lights, the architectural abomination known today as Alvin’s Island, built there, needing no exception to zoning.

Be careful what you wish for.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right on Ed...the Record is acting as a cheerleader and doesn't explain what the City could get if they reject the PUD extension...also doesn't discuss whether new traffic imact studies should be stormwater updates etc. casually mentions a 600 car parking lot...sure that won't screw up our already messed up traffic situation and the article casually brushes aside the concerns of immediate neighbors of the little extra traffic BUT whoa..look at allo the money we can make off

It stinks.

P.S. Lets spend another $100,000 on a traffic study..golly do ya think this will create more traffic..hmm tough question...idiots!