Sunday, July 02, 2017

Melinda Rakoncay on Preserving HP-5 From KANTi PATEL AND MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC.


I agree with Melinda Rakoncay, stalwart winning community leader of efforts to STOP the 7-ELEVEN at May & San Marco and to HALT FSDB's attempt to encroach on Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood neighborhoods with eminent domain condemnation powers.  Read her latest Record column, below.

Don't let dodgy bully developer KANTI PATEL, his toadies and their false numbers on hotel capacity and packing needs snow our City Commissioners into destroying HP-5 historic preservation district.

Grove Street is a lovely, tree-lined street with historic homes, lovingly restored by their owners.

Help preserve and protect St. Augustine from MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC., dodgy developers and  reckless, feckless city staff suffering from acalculia, an inability to perform mathematical functions.  Otherwise, an international boycott could emerge.

Quo vobis videtor?

Posted July 2, 2017 12:02 am
St. Augustine’s livability is at risk

Melinda Rakoncay
GUEST COLUMN St. Augustine Record

Some of you have heard about the San Marco Hotel PUD (Planned Unit Development) and may think it doesn’t concern you. However, this is a very important zoning case that will show how St. Augustine is going to weigh livability versus tourism. While we all understand the importance of tourism to our local economy, should tourism’s needs be at the expense of the residents’?

Let’s examine what could be built at one of the busiest intersections entering downtown and what the HP5 zoning district allows and doesn’t allow.

HP5 was designated to protect both the entrance into the historic district and the abutting residential neighborhood from intensive commercial development. Hotels and parking lots are not allowed in HP5 and restaurants are only allowed by exception. The uses allowed in this zone are residential and low impact commercial. The existing Best Western is grandfathered in, meaning that it cannot be expanded or replaced by another hotel. The same applies to Barnacle Bills, which is there by exception.

The San Marco Hotel could not be built in HP5, which is why in 2006, they asked for a PUD with underground parking to build it. Times were different back then and many PZB members agree they would not grant a PUD the size of the Casa Monica at that location today. Everyone knows how busy the Casa Monica is with the constant coming and going of valet parking, weddings, conferences and restaurant patrons, in addition to the hotel occupancy. The proposed San Marco Hotel would create the same kind of activity at this congested intersection right next to North City National Register Historic District.

There are no final engineering drawings for the proposed tunnel concept, or scale drawings showing how the nearby homes will be dwarfed by this project. There has been too much inaccurate and vague information on event occupancy and parking for us to predict the full negative impact it will have if built.

While the city cannot take away the PUD it granted to Mr. Patel back in 2006, there is no reason to let him eat further into HP5 to accommodate his wish to now have surface parking instead of an underground garage. Why would he spend over a million dollars to buy Barnacle Bills without a zoning contingency in his contract? Because underground parking was going to cost him $7.5 million, making his approved PUD not financially feasible. It is unbelievable that this PUD was granted back in 2006 without Mr. Patel or the City knowing the cost of the promised underground garage, but it was. So the people of St. Augustine are being asked to give up more of their HP5 zoning to bail out a hotel developer, who miscalculated his building costs. The Planning &Zoning Board did not feel that reason justified rezoning more HP5 into a PUD and, correctly, turned down the request.

As residents we should insist that our City Commissioners uphold our zoning — especially when there have been numerous public hearings, and the result was to keep the existing HP5 zoning and not expand the PUD. Without stable zoning, none of us can live with any assurance that the neighborhood we bought into will remain the same. If the City cedes its zoning to the needs of the tourism, then none of us are safe. Ask your elected City Commissioners to protect your residential investment by not constantly changing zoning to suit the needs of commercial and institutional expansion in St. Augustine. Upholding our zoning is the only thing that will keep St. Augustine a livable city.

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