Wednesday, May 04, 2016


Looks like Jake Martin's reporting as St. Johns County Commission correspondence was heavily censored and martially altered. He took thorough notes all day long, sitting next to me, only to have the "news hole" swallowed up by murders in another county. Watching the St. Augustine Record management trying to cover up for St. Johns County crooks is like watching a duck try to make love to a football.

St. Johns County Commission approves PZA picks; Treasure Beach residents air out complaints over dredging
Posted: May 3, 2016 - 11:49pm | Updated: May 4, 2016 - 4:41am

St. Johns County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the appointment of Brad Nelson to his old seat on the Planning and Zoning Agency for a partial term expiring Sept. 2, 2018.

Also approved were the reappointments of current members Jeff Martin and Jon Woodard, who will be serving full four-year terms expiring Oct. 4, 2019.

Nelson resigned from the board in October so he could file to run for St. Johns County property appraiser but withdrew from the race in February.

His decision to re-apply for the PZA following his campaign exit set the stage for controversy when the PZA backed away from its initial recommendation of St. Augustine Beach Planning and Zoning Board member Karen Zander for the open position.

Further complicating matters, Nelson and Zander both missed what the county said was a Nov. 25 deadline.

Zander’s application made it to the PZA for consideration after it came to the county on Nov. 30. Nelson’s application didn’t arrive until Feb. 12, four days before the County Commission was scheduled to vote.

Zander on Tuesday said she was “flabbergasted” when county staff at the Feb. 16 commission meeting said her application was late. She claimed the story was a fabrication executed with the goal of restoring Nelson to his former seat.

“Brad Nelson has shown that he is not willing to hold himself accountable for his own willful decision to resign from the St. Johns County PZA,” she said during public comment. “This board, then, must do it for him.”

A county spokeswoman had said because the county accepts applications for boards like the PZA year-round, Zander wasn’t given any sort of immediate notification she missed the deadline earlier in the process.

In a Feb. 14 email to commissioners, PZA chair Dick Williams said he and fellow PZA members would “fully support” Nelson’s return as a senior member of the board. That message was followed the next day by several emails from PZA members to commissioners in support of Nelson’s re-appointment.

Williams on Tuesday addressed questions raised during public comment as to whether members of the PZA violated the state’s Sunshine Laws when they threw their support toward Nelson without a formal recommendation. Williams said there was no coordination and that his email to commissioners only assumed fellow members would share his position.

Citing concerns with the application process and potential makeup of the PZA with scheduled leaves and pending retirements, commissioners on Feb. 16 voted 4-1 to postpone the vote to fill the vacancies and re-advertise. Commissioner Bill McClure had voted alone in dissent, saying there were plenty of qualified candidates who turned in applications on time.

Commissioners on Tuesday also unanimously approved the appointments of St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Andrea Samuels and Todd Hickey, general manager at Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, to the Tourism Development Council.

One of the available seats was required to be a city of St. Augustine Beach representative and the other was required to be an owner/operator of a tourist accommodation subject to bed tax.

Samuels will serve a four-year term expiring April 1, 2020. Hickey will serve a partial term due to expire Feb. 4.

Treasure Beach

Commissioners also heard a presentation regarding a canal dredging project at Treasure Beach that residents say was not done properly.

Residents said they paid to have the canals dredged to a 5-foot depth but that there were at least 16 locations where corrective action was needed due to silting. Many homeowners in the State Road A1A South development said they’re having trouble moving freely to the Intracoastal Waterway.

A previous dredging of the canals lasted almost 15 years. The latest dredging was done by Clearwater-based Gator Dredging between May and December 2014 via a contract with the county.

The County Commission on Aug. 6, 2013, had voted in approval of establishing a Municipal Service Benefit Unit — essentially a designated taxing district — at Treasure Beach in order to raise $3 million to dredge about 5.5 miles of canals. Homeowners in the area committed to paying about $10,000 per house over 15 years to pay for the effort, according to a previous St. Augustine Record report.

While some residents say they don’t believe the dredging was done as specified in contract documents, county officials say payments were made because a surveyor showed the work was in compliance with the contract.

Many residents said during public comment Tuesday they don’t want a fight, they just want the canals fixed.

Damon Douglas, project manager for the county, said that could cost up to $200,000.

Who’s responsible for what, however, has yet to be determined.

Commissioner Jimmy Johns said the discussion was in danger of drifting into murky waters.

“There’s a legal document and there’s an expectation, and I don’t know that the two matched,” he said, adding there are many technicalities and variables that will have to be examined.

McClure, whose District 3 seat encompasses the Treasure Beach community, said he will bring a specific request to commissioners as to how to fix the canal situation within the next 30 days. He said he would include all three parties — the county, affected residents and Gator Dredging — in that solution.

Other business

Commissioners voted unanimously to send proposed changes to the Land Development Code to the PZA for further consideration. The changes are meant to bring the code into compliance with newly adopted state and fire regulations.

One proposed change would create supplemental provisions for restaurants that want to allow dogs within a specified outdoor area. Other changes exempt beekeeping from requirements of a special use permit; eliminate and clean up language regarding provisions and restrictions for outdoor firing ranges; and bring several fire regulations up to date with the Florida Fire Prevention Code.

The PZA will hear the changes at its June 2 meeting and, upon approval, send those back to the County Commission for approval on July 19.

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