Posted June 12, 2017 05:14 am
By JAKE MARTIN firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Johns County Commission to take second look at dock acquisition on Deep Creek
CHRISTINA.KELSO@STAUGUSTINE.COM A boat dock extends over marshland at the end of Pine Island road, within the Palencia North Planned Unit Development, on Saturday, June 10, 2017.
St. Johns County commissioners expressed some buyer’s remorse at their June 6 meeting over a dock within the Palencia North Planned Unit Development that the county recently took off the hands of a developer.
The board voted 4-1 on May 16 to accept a non-exclusive grant of pedestrian access from the Pine Island Acquisition Company to allow for “public dock/boat access” at Deep Creek, at the end of Pine Island Road.
County officials said the easement was required upon or before approval of the Final Development Plan for the PUD as part of a 2005 agreement between the county and developer.
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The deal was scrutinized particularly by Commissioner Paul Waldron, who pulled the item from the consent agenda for discussion at the May 16 meeting. Waldron was alone in dissent after taking issue with the wording and intent of the agreement and trying to get public access to a boat ramp tacked onto the easement.
Section 8.1.5 of the Palencia North PUD, Ordinance 2005-108, states: “The applicant will grant to the County without expense to the County a non-exclusive easement for the County over a northerly portion of the Fish Camp parcel to allow public dock/boat access. Such easement may include existing boat ramp and/or a dock located on the Fish Camp parcel.”
Lane Gardner of Hines, the original developer, said they had a lot of frontage on the Intracoastal Waterway that required an access point every 750 feet under the county’s previous Comprehensive Plan, but that staff requested they trade those in for one access point at the fish camp. He said similarly, in Marshall Creek, there were multiple access points traded in for one community pier with public access.
Waldron asked Gardner if the county at the time had requested to make the area a park, with a boat ramp and dock and other amenities at the fish camp, to which Gardner said the language is just the ramp or the dock, adding he felt that was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan at the time.
Gardner said he’s met with county staff and commissioners over the past 10 years to see what could be done, but to no avail.
“Nothing could ever be done, so we need to move forward with it,” he said, adding his partners needed to sell that property and that it was already under contract for sale. “We’re trying to finish up the easement requirement for the PUD.”
Waldron said he would have preferred the boat ramp over the dock, as far as what he predicts the future demand will be.
Acceptance of the easement required no funding in and of itself, although the county has now assumed ownership and maintenance responsibilities within the easement area, which includes a path to the boat dock, as well as “earth cut/fill slope, and any related facilities.” At the county’s “sole cost and expense,” the easement area must be maintained in “good condition and repair.”
Developers told commissioners moments before the vote that they replaced the dock after Hurricane Matthew.
Gardner made the following comment after County Attorney Patrick McCormack requested he come back to the podium and offer some clarity on the record about a different matter concerning access: “In fact, the dock was damaged by the hurricane and we had the dock replaced in order to give it to you, so we’re happy to give you that via the bill of sale and do it contingent on the bill of sale.”
However, Commissioner Jeb Smith, following a site visit two days after that meeting, took exception to the claim during his closing comments on June 6.
“The dock was not replaced,” he said, adding that this was one of the premises on which he based his vote. “I thought we were accepting an asset, a new asset, with no need for repair or cost to incur. This is not the case.”
He said what he found was merely that two boards were replaced, adding he would call this “repair” rather than “replacement.”
“I was a little disappointed and a bit disturbed and I would not have cast my vote to accept this dock with knowledge I now possess,” Smith said. “I am quite certain I would change my vote.”
He said he expects the dock will need to be “dealt with” and that it’s going to need some money put into it, also asking if the item could be revisited.
McCormack said he didn’t want to comment on anyone’s intentions but said a concern has been raised that, if found to be true, can be addressed by a provision in the board’s code regarding substantive misrepresentation. He said staff can go back and review what was represented and compare that with what the reality is on site.
Commissioner Henry Dean said if Smith has made the site visit and determined what the board thought it was getting isn’t there, if there was any way he could make a motion to reconsider the decision. McCormack interjected and said he didn’t want to take any such action without an inspection into the matter.
Dean said he would also reconsider his vote if it proves to be true there were misrepresentations made about the dock, but McCormack, again, encouraged the board to wait until the results are in before passing judgment.
“It’s simply: if there was one thing said and there was a substantially different thing in reality, I think the board needs to that and I know your code has provisions that deal with that kind of situation,” McCormack said.
He said he would be reaching out to the developers’ counsel and that county staff would perform an inspection.
Meanwhile, a disclaimer of warranty within the easement agreement says the Pine Island Acquisition Company “makes no representations nor grants any warranties of any kind, whether express, implied, statutory, or otherwise, including, without limitation, any warranty for quality or fitness for any particular use or purpose,” and that the county accepts the easement “as is, where is” and “with all faults.”
Guess our county commissioners are not as smart as they like to think of themselves. The county got screwed by another developer....AGAIN
A developer lie? Say it isn't so.
Thank you Commissioner Waldron !