ST. JOHNS COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR MICHAEl DAVID WANCHICK (left) WITH COUNTY SHERIFF DAVID BERNERD SHOAR f/k/a "HOAR," WHOSE DEVELOPER-DRIVEN COUNTY COMMISSION UNANIMOUSLY VOTED AGAINST FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS, DELETING 40 ACRES OF WORKFORCE AFFORDABLE HOUSING AT THE MAY 17, 2016 MEETING.
This afternoon, I asked the Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights, Vanita Gupta, to investigate civil rights violations. As LBJ said to Congress after Selma, "We SHALL overcome!"
St. Johns County's all-Republican County Commissioners voted unanimously today to violate the Fair Housing Act and breach fiduciary duty, deleting 40 acres in Nocatee set aside for workforce affordable housing. Local heroes Ellen Whitmer, B.J. Kalaidi and Thomas F. Reynolds spoke in opposition.
Sometimes the dragon -- or Grand Dragon -- wins.
But expect DoJ and HUD to investigate:
Sent: Tue, May 17, 2016 3:22 pm
Subject: Civil Rights Complaint re: St. Johns County Commissioners deleting 40 acres of workforce affordable housing from Nocatee Development of Regional Impact (DRI)
Dear Assistant Attorney General Gupta:
http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/two-gunshots/ "Two Gunshots on a Summer Night," by Walt Bogdanich and Glenn Silber
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/death-in-st-augustine/ PBS Frontline documentary, "A Death in St. Augustine"
http://www.nbcnews.com/dateline/full-episode-two-shots-fired-n84816 NBC News Dateline documentary, "Two Shots Fired"
Thank you for all that you do.
With kindest regards,
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
HERE'S THE CENSORED RECORD STORY, UNADORNED BY ANY QUOTES FROM PUBLIC COMMENT OR ANY MENTION OF FAIR HOUSING ACT CONCERNS:
Changes coming to Nocatee; developers point to new 'realities' since 2001 approval
Posted: May 17, 2016 - 11:41pm | Updated: May 17, 2016 - 11:53pm
By JAKE MARTIN
Changes are coming for Nocatee and its development agreements with St. Johns County after commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-0 in favor of three separate recommendations that include tweaks to the development’s affordable housing requirements.
Commissioner Jay Morris, whose District 4 seat encompasses the Nocatee development, was not in attendance.
St. Johns County will keep 10 acres it has already received but relieve The PARC Group — Nocatee’s master developer — of its requirement to provide another 40 acres of land for affordable housing. The county received the 10 acres in July 2006 and has yet to make use of the land.
The developer had also been required to pay $800,000 to the county for affordable housing as Nocatee builds out. In exchange for the land relief, The PARC Group will pay the county the remaining $650,000 in one lump sum, up front, instead of stretching those payments out over the course of about 15 years.
The payment will be assigned to the St. Johns County Housing fund. These dollars could be used to assist in the development of affordable housing or developing shelter for homeless people within the county.
County Administrator Michael Wanchick said $800,000 today is “way more” than $800,000 in subsequent years. He also said many local agencies addressing local housing needs, such as Habitat for Humanity, Home Again St. Johns and St. Johns Housing Partnership, tend to have the land but lack the capital for their projects.
Residents speaking against the amendments during public comment on Tuesday said affordable housing was getting the back seat to the developer’s requests and questioned what $800,000 could realistically buy the county. Others said the acreage the developer will now retain is far more valuable.
Wanchick said Nocatee was an “established community partner” with more than 20 years of experience in St. Johns County. He said that relationship has likely influenced discussion and negotiations, but that the generosity is not a one-way street.
“These are people that have served the county well,” Wanchick said. “We don’t give away the farm to anybody.”
Commissioner Bill McClure said the Nocatee project is “fantastic,” from a business perspective, because of the associated economic development, higher taxable property values and flexibility moving forward.
“No one’s getting away with anything here,” he said. “No one’s shirking away.”
But McClure also expressed concerns for safeguards for the county’s other taxpayers and what should be done about affordable housing to make sure opportunities don’t go to waste.
“It makes sense as a community, if we really want to help with affordable housing, that we take any money we can and make something happen,” he said. “I’m not happy with holding onto the land for 10 years.”
County staff has said the land has infrastructure needs and is subject to fees from a Community Development District that make it difficult to attract an affordable housing developer.
One of the main benefits touted by the development’s representatives and county staff was the chance of a private, post-secondary educational institution locating in Nocatee.
Under the new agreements, the developer will donate 20 acres of land for the institution, or, if nothing comes to fruition within five years, pay the county about $1.64 million to keep the acreage for its own use.
The developer had also asked to reduce from 20 to 5 percent the minimum requirement for multi-family residential buildings; to reduce from 30 percent to 10 percent the minimum requirement for multi-family residential in the Town Center Village; and to reduce from 40 to 10 percent the requirement for office space in the village. All of those requests were approved as a result of Tuesday’s voting.
PARC Group representatives said they are “responding to realities of the market” since Nocatee’s approval in 2001.
The development’s retail and workplace/employment center credit, which extended one mile out from a development entrance and with a minimum of 100,000 square feet, was expanded to a three-mile radius from the Nocatee New Town boundary. No changes were made to the overall commercial and office square footage required from the previous agreement.
Nocatee representatives said future business and employment opportunities were reduced inside the development due to the completion and advancement of State Road 9B into St. Johns County. County staff said there were benefits to moving traffic strains from internal to external roadways.
Also removed was a provision for elementary schools to be located within the Village, which development representatives and county staff said would provide more flexibility to the St. Johns County School District in choosing sites.
Since the changes affect the Nocatee Planned Unit Development, the development agreement and the Comprehensive Plan, all three recommendations were voted on in separate items. The deal was supported by most of the St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency members at their April 7 meeting.
Commissioners, via consent agenda approval, also authorized county staff to submit a grant application to the Department of Economic Opportunity for a Technical Assistance Grant to update the St. Johns County Affordable Housing Study. No match funds are required for the grant, which would fund a support survey and research data initiated by Florida State University researchers.
According to county documents, the study would measure current demand for affordable housing along with strategies and recommendations to promote and incentivize affordable housing. Although the Comprehensive Plan had set a goal for updating this study by 2013, the county’s existing housing study was completed in 2002. Projects must be completed by June 15, 2017, for grant funding.
■ Commissioners unanimously approved entering into an Interlocal Agreement with the city of St. Augustine outlining how they will move forward in making improvements to parking and access for the county’s Main Library and the city’s Davenport Park at the intersection of May Street, West San Carlos Avenue and San Marco Avenue.
According to a conceptual site/access plan that received support from the City Commission on April 25, the driveway access on West San Carlos will be eliminated after driveways are provided off U.S. 1. Parking will be expanded with a right-turn-out only driveway to San Marco. The improvements will be funded by the city and the Florida Department of Transportation.
McClure said he was concerned whether there was too much going on in too small a space for the plan to truly fix traffic issues while providing appropriate access to the library and park.
County and city staff acknowledged there are accommodations they will have to make, including for the existing Sunshine Bus stop, which could possibly be moved north toward the Mark Lance National Guard Armory.
Another concern was for library patrons coming from U.S. 1 South who could potentially have to make a U-turn at the San Carlos light to reach the new library access points.
Commissioner Rachael Bennett said there were already plenty of businesses located along U.S. 1 that require a U-turn to access, depending on what direction drivers are coming from.
Staff and commissioners did point to a net gain of up to 40 parking spaces with the improvements, however.
■ Commissioners unanimously directed county staff to proceed with making revisions to the Land Development Code that would provide clarity and penalties for unpermitted tree removal. Citing a need for a “big picture” solution, they also unanimously called for staff to prepare a comprehensive discussion of the county’s tree ordinance.
Commissioner Jeb Smith said much of the ordinance drifts into potential gray areas, particularly when it comes to determining responsibility for the unpermitted removal of trees.
“The impetus is to move forward with something more broad, or comprehensive,” he said. “There are a lot of matters here I think can be considered.”
Smith and Bennett said they would like to see more solutions that incentivize people doing the right thing rather than punishing those who violate the ordinance.
Two public hearings would be required before any Land Development Code amendments could be adopted.