Friday, April 07, 2017

Epic Zoning Victory, Days-Late Record Article, 505 Words: Short and Containing Falsehoods --- "Alternative Facts?" Pitiful

The St. Augustine Record's maladroit editors weren't there. They didn't care. They had no reporter present on April 4, 2017 when the Planning and Zoning Board rejeted hotel speculator KANTI PATEL's effort to inflict a giant MARRIOTT RENAISSANCE hotel at a failing intersection. While multi-millionaire KANTI PATEL already has had since 2006 Commission approval to construct a hotel with underground parking, he wants to save a few million. As recently as 2016, PATEL swore, in writing, under oath that there were no soil or topographical impediments to constructing the San Marco Hotel.

In 2017, PATEL's "team" lied about it being impossible to construct the underground parking. His tedious tendentious "testa-liar" putative "experts" were not contradicted by the City's geologist, who was never asked for his opinion.

PATEL's "experts" later admitted that it was not impossible, just expensive. More flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.

Thanks to St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Matthew Shaffer, Vice Chair Deltra Long, and PZB members Carl Blow and Susan Agresta for recommending against allowing PATEL to build a hotel without underground parking and for recommending against rezoning land in historic preservation district HP-5 in violation of the zoning code.

Congratulations to Capt. Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret.) and other residents for leading the charge to preserve, protect and defend our City's historic sense of place against greedy developers.

No thanks whatsoever to the unenlightened gullible editors at The St. Augustine Record, which did not even bother to show up to cover the April 4, 2017 zoning hearing, then wrote a shallow article -- only 505 words -- heavily tilted toward the hotel speculator, Mr. PATEL, and unadorned by any signs of having watched the video or spoken to opponents of the project.

As Jim Garrison once said, "What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?" This same "viewspaper" has done its worst to try to kiss up to Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, f/k/a "HOAR," ever since Michelle O'Connell was shot to death in the home of St. Johns County Sheriff JEREMY BANKS on September 2, 2010. SHOAR'S developer cronies get favorable coverage, just as SHOAR does. Pitiful.

Posted April 7, 2017 05:10 am - Updated April 7, 2017 05:43 am
San Marco Hotel rezoning could be decided by St. Augustine commissioners

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A request to change the San Marco Hotel’s development plan, which received a negative vote this week from a St. Augustine board, could be headed to the City Commission.

The plan, which would rezone land in a historic preservation zoning district to create surface parking, has already gone through multiple hearings and has been revised in the process.

The St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board voted 4-2 against the proposal this week after an extensive hearing. Board members Cathy Brown and Grant Misterly voted against the denial, with Brown saying she believes the project would enhance the site.

The hotel would have about 90 rooms near the intersection of West Castillo Drive and San Marco Avenue, a frequently busy and congested intersection surrounded both by commercial activity and a residential area.

James Whitehouse, attorney for property owner Kanti Patel, said Thursday officials are looking at their options in light of the board’s negative vote. One of them is to appeal to the commission, where Patel would be willing to adjust plans again if necessary, Whitehouse said. “As Mr. Patel has shown in the past, he is willing to compromise to (finish) this good project,” he said.

The PUD, which was approved in 2006 and which the owner still has the authority to build under, called for an underground parking lot. But an engineer found the project could destabilize the area, which led the owner to seek a change in the PUD to allow for surface parking. Whitehouse said Thursday that moving ahead with the already approved underground parking is still on the table, but officials are looking into whether problems related to that plan can be resolved.

The project has received opposition from the public and some board members. Some have voiced concerns about more historic preservation zoning being taken away.

Traffic was also a concern with surface parking, so the plan was adjusted to add a tunnel to connect the hotel and a parking lot.

During the hearing this week, Misterly suggested several changes to the PUD to help relieve concerns. His suggestions included requiring smaller delivery trucks and prohibiting parking on West Castillo Drive. He also suggested prohibiting guests and employees from parking on Grove Avenue and Fletcher Lane, which are close to the property.

During the board’s hearing, concerns were also raised about St. Augustine’s parking and traffic issues and how they are influenced by large projects.

Board member Carl Blow said: “ … I (would) love to see this go to the City Commission … I think they need to weigh in on whether (or) not this project should go forward in conjunction with whatever they’re trying to do to solve the traffic and parking problems in the city in order to maintain the quality of life.”

During the hearing, Whitehouse raised concerns about bringing the city’s overall parking and traffic concerns into the matter.

“All I fear is that I don’t want Mr. Patel to be punished because there’s some other issues going on with parking and traffic,” Whitehouse said.
1 Comment

What are the chances that, just once, a developer must follow the rules? Remember, this is not about improving the city of St. Augustine, there is no benefit for residents, there is no help for gridlock. In fact, just the opposite. This is about a hotel owner maximizing his profits. There is nothing wrong with that, but please think about the impact to the locals who don't happen to own a tourist related business.

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