Sunday, June 11, 2017

More Flummery: Inexplicable 2015 Amendment to St. Augustine Special Event Ordinance?

Captain Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret.) wrote in St. Augustine Residents Count:

I swear you just cannot make this stuff up...
On June 22, 2015 David Birchim, Director of City Planning and Building, briefed the City Commission on a new ordinance intended to regulate special event venues (SEV) in St. Augustine.
During his briefing he tells the Commissioners that the ordinance will add a new way of calculating parking required for event spaces "ancillary" to an existing business, such as a hotel banquet space.
Mr. Birchim tells the Commissioners that for "standing room only" (no fixed seating) types of spaces the ordinance will require 1 parking space for every 20 sq ft of patron space. Commissioner Leanna Freeman responds, "That makes sense." Commissioner Roxanne Horvath agreed. Now, in fairness to Mr. Birchim  does tell the Commission that there isn't much precedent in other municipal codes and this is somewhat new ground. But, he does say the 1 space/20 sq ft requirement was derived from Florida Building Code and was consistent with existing City Code. During public comment one small business owner and one former city official (Mark Knight, in company with Kanti Patel) objected to the 20 sq ft per space requirement as too onerous.
As far as I can tell, nowhere in subsequent hearings on the SEV ordinance (27 Jul and 14 Dec 2015) does this topic or parking calculation come up again in public. OK?
Maybe - maybe not.
How does one explain that in the ordinance that is now on the books in City Code, the special events venue parking requirement is "1 space per 200 sq ft?" 200, not 20.
Now, there may be a good explanation. I'd certainly love to hear it.
Because a change of 10 TIMES from what our Commission thought "made sense" is a heck of a change and makes a HUGE difference in how much parking a hotel will have to provide.
For example, using the 1 space per four people, a 500 person banquet room (about 5,000 sq ft) would have to provide 94 spaces (the number is multiplied by 0.75 for hotels). But if it uses the 1 space per 200 sq ft, it would only have to provide 25 spaces.
Wow, a difference of 69 parking spaces depending on which methodology allowed by City Code you choose. Hmmm, if you're hotel developer which one would you go with?
And this is not some theoretical debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, this is having real impact in the real world.
On April 4th Kanti Patel's representative used the one space 200 sq ft of ballroom area to justify the parking number he presented to the PZB.
Why would our city create a process that produces such wildly different outcomes for something as important as parking? Why would a requirement change so radically (10 times) from when it was briefed to when it becomes code? When did it get changed? Or is this just a "typo"?
Why do I feel like we're always having to pick up the 7-10 split when trying to understand our city government?
(Art by James C. Christensen)

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