Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dull record article omits facts on St. Augustine Beach tree issue

A selfish surgeon and his conflicted corporate law firm demanded to kill two old oak trees for a five car garage: St. Augustine Beach residents won and defeated these vandals and visigoths. St. Augustine Record omitted the gnarly details. Wonder why?

The Record's article on the September 12, 2016 St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting omits:

o the names of the concerned residents -- the people who spoke in support of the PZB's unanimous ruling, including PZB Chair Jane West;
o the name of the surgeon who wanted to kill two old oak trees so he could build a five car garage (ROMELLE V. SUCH);
o the identity of the law firm defending the indefensible tree killing (ST. JOHNS LAW GROUP, which was SAB's law firm until earlier this year, under the maladroit mismanagement of DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT, son of the former commanding general of the Florida National Guard, and his estimable sidekick, JAMES GEORGE WHITEHOUSE);
o the name of the Planning and Building Director who rubber-stamped the application because the trees were "within the building footprint" (GARY LARSON, under federal investigation); and
o the name of the impulsively pro-rich guy Commissioner (SHERMAN GARY SNODGRASS) who dangled over Hell's fire by a thread, and almost voted in favor of the five-car garage, based on a false understanding of "precedent" (which learned counsel said did not apply to municipal official or board decisions that are not explained as well as court decisions).

Note to Sheldon: it is possible to write a short story on an important event while still informing your readers. Read mine here.

St. Augustine Beach budget moves ahead
Posted: September 12, 2016 - 10:50pm | Updated: September 13, 2016 - 1:37pm

St. Augustine Beach sets tentative millage rate, budget for fiscal year 2016
Beach approves $7.8M bond issue

St. Augustine Beach commissioners advanced a budget with a flat millage rate on Monday night.

The final budget and millage rate hearings will be 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 26.

The 2.3992 millage rate remains the same as the current fiscal year, but it’s still above the rate that is estimated to bring in the same amount of property tax revenue as the current fiscal year.

That’s called the rollback rate, which is 2.2543 mills. The millage rate could, technically, be lowered still.

But commissioners didn’t give any indication that would happen.


inRead invented by Teads

Once the beach starts to see revenue increases along with new development, the city could consider keeping a rollback rate, said Commissioner Margaret England.

“But right now based on what we have delayed and our duty to keep up with the infrastructure and keep up with our responsibilities to our citizens on the streets and safety, I believe we should keep the ad valorem property tax and millage rate the same as last year,” England said.

The total amount of beach property tax for a $200,000 property owner after homestead exemption would be $479.84, or $28.98 above the rollback rate, according to a memo from City Manager Max Royle.

The tentative millage rate of 2.3992 mills is expected to bring in $2,518,468, which is $152,103 higher than the rollback millage estimated revenue, according to the memo.

The increased revenue will not only boost the budget but open doors for the city to fund City Hall security enhancements of $100,000 and a metal vehicle storage building for public works at $350,000 ($139,000 of which will come from impact fee dollars), according to the memo from City Manager Max Royle.

The budget includes a 2.5 percent employee pay increase as part of a new market-rate, performance-based pay plan established in part by Commissioner Gary Snodgrass.

Commissioner Undine George questioned whether the plan would give enough flexibility to department heads to determine whether an employee deserves an increase in pay.

Snodgrass said the plan is merit based, so employees won’t be getting a raise without proving merit, and it’s a uniform and consistent way to provide pay increases.

“If we subsequently find out that it’s not meeting our needs, I’ll be the first person to suggest … let’s take [another] crack at it,” Snodgrass said.

The across-the-board initial increase was for the first year to get things started.

Total cost of salaries and benefits, operating costs, and capital outlay expenditures in the proposed budget is more than $7.6 million, according to the city.


Commissioners upheld a decision by the Planning and Zoning Board to deny a permit to remove a 35-inch diameter oak tree and a 44-inch diameter oak tree at a future development on Ocean Pines Drive.

Several people spoke out against the city’s sign codes, in particular the prohibition on any sign being placed in the ground on city property. That rule, which came as part of the city’s update to its sign code, meant that campaign signs were removed from City Hall grounds leading up to primary election day.

The commission meeting went late into the evening.

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