Saturday, November 03, 2018


PZB must reject a selfish speculator's proposed conversion of a seven bedroom mansion into seven short-term rental rooms.

Retired Pennsylvania lawyer DAVID BARTON CORNEAL has already destroyed Carpenter's House and privatized the DOW MUSEUM OF HISTORIC HOMES. Don't let him destroy an entire neighborhood, Old City South, HP-1.

From St. Augustine Residents Count and Capt. Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret.).

Under the heading of "What goes around, comes around," there is this:
David Corneal, owner of the Collector Hotel at the former Dow Museum property has applied for a rezoning of his seven bedroom, nine bathroom mansion at 125 Marine Street from Residential Single-family 1 (RS-1) to Residential Low 1 (RL-1). The picture below shows the location. 
While the inclusion of the term "residential" in each zoning category's name may make this change seem innocuous, as you might suspect, the devil is very much in the details. Here they are:
1. All properties now being operated as a short term rental in RS-1 are required to register with the city. In RL-1 there is no requirement to register.
2. All properties now being operated as a short term rental in RS-1 may only rent once per seven days. Under RL-1 there is no such restriction. Mr. Corneal could rent his rooms to seven different couples each night of the week (there is a virtually unenforceable restriction in St. Augustine on no more than 3 unrelated people renting at the same address. Given the lack of code enforcement in St Augustine, it wouldn't be too hard to get around that.)
3. There is a restriction on the size of gatherings that renters are allowed to hold in RS-1. The restriction is 20 people or less, effectively taking a RS-1 house out of the event venue market. That restriction goes away with a change to RL-1. So with the rezoning, a residential neighborhood will have a full-up commercial events venue operating legally in the heart of one of the quietest corners of one of the quietest downtown neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it is a perfect house to hold a large wedding: On the water, big yard to the south, lots of rooms and gathering places under one roof, and plenty of on street parking thanks to the surrounding neighborhood. 
There's more than a bit of irony to this. If you recall, during the fight over David Corneal getting city permission for a commercial hotel operation at the Dow Museum in the Historic Preservation 1 (HP-1) district, one of the arguments against allowing commercial intrusion into a district intended to be primarily residential with no commercial uses was that it would lead to further "commercial creep" into the HP-1 and RS-1 neighborhoods south of the Dow. 
In fact, a map of HP-1 and RS-1 was shared with the City Commission during the Dow debate that showed 27 large houses that could be converted into B&B's using that exact same logic that Corneal used to justify a hotel & bar operation in HP-1. 
Now "commercial creep" has leapfrogged HP-1 and landed in RS-1. It shouldn't be allowed. If we are to protect what's left of The City of St Augustine's residential neighborhoods, this cannot be permitted. If approved, this could very well unleash a damaging trend in St. Augustine. There will be precedent for commercial investors to purchase residential properties which are discounted because of the restrictions of residential zoning. They will then be able to sue to have the zoning downgraded to commercial based on this precedent and then open them up as a commercial ventures, or sell them off at a nice appreciation because of the change of zoning.
The PZB will hear this rezoning request next Tuesday at 2 PM at the Alcazar Room. If you want to get away from all the election day "noise" and protect ST Augustine's residential neighborhoods, come on down!


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