In public comment, I objected to St. Johns County's developer-coddling Assistant County Attorney Paolo Soria and County Commission Chairman Paul Waldron interrupting a citizen testifying about a federal bankruptcy court judge comments on the applicant's credibility. I told them they were wrong. As Blackstone said more than 200 years ago, "The law is entitled to every person's evidence."United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974).
(Last week, the sourpuss-faced Paolo Soria told Planning and Zoning Agency board members that their tie vote was "a technical denial." That's the same language used by languid developer-coddling St. Augustine Planning and Building Director Douglas David Birchim and his fired predecessor, Mark Alan Knight. No, it's a denial. A tie vote means a motion fails.
From The St. Augustine Record, a page one banner headline article and YouTube video:
St. Johns County Commission denies marina near Palm Valley bridge
By Sheldon Gardner
Posted Aug 20, 2019 at 7:14 PM
Updated at 7:51 AM
St. Augustine Record
Plans for a community marina at a narrow part of the Intracoastal Waterway didn’t make it past the County Commission on Tuesday.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to reject a zoning request by the developer. The move upheld an appeal by several neighborhood residents, who were seeking a reversal of the Planning and Zoning Agency’s decision in May to approve the zoning variance.
The proposal was to build a 75-slip community marina and boat storage facility on about two vacant acres east of the Intracoastal Waterway and south of the Palm Valley Bridge and public boat ramp. The address is 405 S. Roscoe Blvd. Extension.
The area includes a kayak launch, homes and Palm Valley Outdoors, a waterfront restaurant and shopping center.
The plan needed a zoning variance because of Land Development Code. To get the variance, the applicant had the burden of showing that a denial would constitute a unique hardship.
Hunter Faulkner, the applicant’s attorney, said the property to the north is allowed to function as a boat ramp and denying the ability to build a marina created a hardship for the developer.
Commissioners said the applicant hadn’t proven a hardship.
People who commented against the project on Tuesday focused in part on the potential for more boats in an already congested section of the Intracoastal Waterway.
“This area is very constrained,” said James Whitehouse, who represented a few people who appealed.
Dick Fredeking, one of residents who appealed the PZA decision, said he’s traveled the Intracoastal extensively and knows that section of the Intracoastal is very narrow.
“It’s very, very dangerous there, and I would ask the Commission to consider the safety factor,” he said.
A couple of speakers said they live nearby and support the development. One man said he’d gathered 32 signatures in support of the project. He also voiced concerns about a restaurant being built there if the marina was denied.
The developer hadn’t determined his next steps as of Tuesday afternoon, Faulkner said.
In other business
• Commissioners approved the Bridgewater Planned Unit Development 3-2, with Commissioner Jeb Smith and Commission Chair Paul Waldron voting against the County Road 210 development. The decision to approve the PUD goes against the county PZA’s 4-0 recommendation to deny the development.
The decision will allow up to 816 townhomes by rezoning about 144 acres east of Interstate 95 from Open Rural to Planed Unit Development.
Bob Porter, a representative of applicant D.R. Horton, said the team did a bad job of describing to the planning board how the traffic would be improved. With traffic improvements already planned in the area and improvements the developer plans, the traffic impacts would be addressed, he said.
• Commissioners voted to send for state review a Comprehensive Plan Amendment for about 58 acres on the northeast side of County Road 16A, west of the intersection with State Road 16. The amendment for the development, referred to as Minorcan Mill, would allow up to 125 single family homes at the site.