Sunday, June 04, 2017


Good columns by PZB member Susan Agresta and Capt. Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret). on St. Augustine Public Nuisance Number 1: Proposed San Marco Hotel (if it does not have underground parking as the current Planned Unit Development law requires).

St. Augustine's historic district is in peril due to one willful man's greed and four City Commissioners' speed. Enough flummery, dupery and nincompoopery in the Oldest City from the franchisee of multinational oligopolist MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC. (NASDAQ & Chicago Exchange "MAR"), whose dodgy, faithless, feckless franchisee threatens to destroy our historic district with too much hotel, too little parking, and a broken legal commitment to provide underground parking (which four unwise City Commissioners voted for in deference to the generous contributor but faithless franchisee. Dissenting was Mayor Nancy Shaver, who held a fair hearing -- the problem is her colleagues, who don't enforce our Comprehensive Plan and turn deaf ears to zoning law enforcement concerns. It's not over, folks.

Posted June 4, 2017 12:02 am
Patel hotel is simply wrong for St. Augustine 
By Sue Aigrets
St. Augustine Record

Eleven years ago, developer Kanti Patel was approved for a Planned Unit Development to build the new San Marco Hotel on the corner of West Castillo and San Marco, in HP-5.

It was to have underground parking, similar to his successful development of the Hilton Hotel on the bayfront. This year, Mr. Patel came back to the St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board asking to add an additional half-acre of HP-5 to his PUD for surface parking.

His justification was that underground parking was not feasible. After several hearings, the PZB denied the application, followed by an appeal to the City Commission that with the exception of Mayor Shaver, found that the board members had erred in their findings. But did they?

During the last PZB hearing, the applicant’s engineer admitted that underground parking is possible, but far more expensive than originally thought.

As a PZB board member, I moved to deny the application because:

n The need and justification, the very basis of a PUD request, is in violation of our zoning code —“we need more land because it cost too much to do what was approved” is not justifiable. Zoning doesn’t exist to bail out developers.

n The project is in violation of our Comp Plan requiring that HP districts be primarily residential (the completed project as requested would be more than 20 percent of the district added to its existing commercial entities), and that it maintain the low intensive ambiance of the neighborhood, and pedestrian scale of the neighborhood.

Clearly a hotel approximately the size of the Casa Monica with 60-foot towers built right up to the street is neither low intensive nor pedestrian scale.

n And then, there is parking.

In the midst of the city dealing with mobility and parking, this PUD would provide 144 parking spaces, 89 of them for hotel rooms.

The remaining 55 spaces are to cover staff parking plus 10,000 square feet of accessory uses including a ballroom, restaurant, bar and convention space.

During the last PZB hearing, former St. Augustine Beach Planning and Zoning Board member Karen Zander testified, using submitted architects plans measured against our CoSA Code and Florida Building Code, that a total 283 spots were needed, versus 144 offered.

Obviously that is not nearly enough — and all of this across from the parking garage on, arguably, the busiest street in St. Augustine!

I hope the Commission revisits this during first and second readings of this application.

I hope all who have misgivings about the congestion this will cause come and make their voices heard.

This one is important.

As a member of the St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board, this letter represents my own thoughts only. It is in no way to be interpreted as those of the board.

From St. Augustine Residents Count:

A quick history lesson on this muggy Wednesday morning.
The picture below shows the original boundaries of the Historic Preservation 1 (HP-1) zoning district as it was established in 1974. 
The orange block was stripped out of HP-1 in 1982 at the insistence of Elsie Hedetniemi, owner of the Kenwood Inn, and rezoned to HP-2 so that Ms. Hedetneimi could convert the Kenwood Inn from a boarding house for long-term renters to a an Inn for overnight guests (more lucrative). This information was obtained from the April 9,1982 edition of the St Augustine Record. 
The other two boxes are commercial Planned Unit Developments that were rezoned out of HP-1 in 2001 and 2015. 
The red circle shows 11 Bridge ST, a single family home that the current owner of the Kenwood Inn wants to have rezoned to PUD so she can make it an annex to her existing Inn. 
Interesting that HP-1 was diminished in 1982 through the efforts of a former Kenwood Inn owner and now the current owner wants to carve another piece out and push commercial intrusion deeper into HP-1. 
The point of the diagram and the "history lesson" is to let people know that the case against rezoning 11 Bridge ST isn't some hypothetical "slippery slope" argument, it's an effort to try to hold back what has already been happening. 
While we watch, a district that City Code describes as "primarily residential" is steadily being eaten away. If residents don't work together to stop this, it will just continue.

AT the May 11th City Commission appeal San Marco Hotel parking PUD hearing I was struck by Commissioner Leanna Freeman's repeated exclamations that she "just don't get" why anyone would not want to see the developer get his property rezoned from HP-5 to parking PUD.
Well, that got me thinking that it might be good to revisit the "why" of why this parking PUD IS NOT GOOD FOR THE CITY. Time for a little review...
The picture below shows the Historic Preservation 5 (HP-5) district outlined in a dotted line. The red block shows the hotel PUD (with underground parking) on the far right of what was once HP-5. The pink parcels to the left of the hotel PUD are the Barnacle Bill's property that the developer wants rezoned from HP-5 to PUD for hotel parking lots.
Very importantly, the brown lot at the far left is a large lot in HP-5 (1 Riberia) that the developer already owns and the two yellow parcels are lots for which the developer has made an offer to buy. 
HP-5, contrary to what some may think, is important. It was originally part of HP-3 when the HP districts were created in 1974 and then split out as a separate district (HP-6) in 1979. 
Reviewing PZB and Commission minutes from 1979 and the 1980's I'm left with the understanding that HP-6 (subsequently HP-5) was considered important for two reasons:
1) It gave the city a way to control development along Castillo Dr., considered the primary historic downtown entry corridor, and
2) It protected the neighborhood and old houses along Grove Ave and in north city, serving to buffer that neighborhood from what was called by one Zoning Board member, "creeping commercialism."
Given the subsequent creation of the North City National Register District (which includes 14 contributing structures on the south side of Grove Ave in HP-5), the buffer function of HP-5 has become even more important than it was in 1979.
If the Commission rezones three more parcels of HP-5 to PUD for parking, it's adios HP-5!

On Wednesday I showed how HP-1 has be reduced in size a fair amount since it was established in 1974 by rezoning to accommodate commercial interests. Today we'll look at the HP districts in a general sense.
Wait! Why, you ask, is this history lesson relevant? Well, because it's important to understand how the city we live in today was created and the context in which past decisions were made. That and because it's just cool to know what happened in years past, isn't it? 
The city created five Historic Preservation Districts in 1974. The picture below shows the five original districts. HP 1,2,3 and 4 were part of or adjacent to the old colonial city. The original HP-5 designation was for areas outside the colonial city but still considered historically significant. The first area designated HP-5 was the Mission of Nombre de Dios (yellow in the photo). 
One of the things we learn from this is that today's HP-5 (between W. Castillo and Grove Ave) wasn't some "after thought" or "late to the party" HP district not to be taken seriously as some would like us to believe. That area was integral to the city's early efforts at protecting our heritage. 
The area between W. Castillo and Grove Ave was included in the original HP zoning for a reason. Rezoning parcels in this district to Planned Unit Development (PUD) for a hotel parking lot should not be done without a highly compelling reason.
Is making him money and a theoretical net gain of 30 parking spaces over the already approved underground parking garage with 114 spaces a compelling reason? Don't think so, not if it undermines the very existence of the HP-5 district.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Indivisible St. Johns plans to protest this hotel!