Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Embassy Suites appeals judge’s ruling against splash park (SAR)

The City of St. Augustine Beach will likely win on this frivolous appeal. 

  • Judge Smith, the St. Augustine Beach City Commission and Planning and Zoning Board were unanimous. 
  • Their decisions were all reasoned and documented. 
  • The garish giant multicolored monstrosity was rightfully denied. 
  • When the City of St Augustine Beach wins, it needs to ask for the Court of Appeals to order reimbursement of all of its attorney fees against Embassy Suites and the AKERMAN law firm.
  • Former St. Johns County Commissioner KAREN TAYLOR, lawyer THOMAS O'NEAL INGRAM and former Jacksonville General Counsel CINDY LAQUIDARA, trading on their influence, attempted to bully, bludgeon, gull and deceive the court and the City. 
  • They failed, miserably. 
  • Footnote: This is the same wicked evil corporate law firm (and THOMAS O'NEAL INGRAM, one of the same lawyers) that billed some $200,000 for malfeasant legal advice to the other itty-bitty City, St. Augustine, to seek to move 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated solid waste illegally deposited in the Old City Reservoir to the south end of Lincolnville, put dirt on top of it, and call it a park.  Seven of us successfully challenged then City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS' nefarious plan in a petition to. the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).  The contaminated solid waste is now in a Class I landfill, which HARRISS gave written instructions never to agree to without a court order.  HARRISS now works as a no-show $1500/month janissary for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from HOAR in 1994. 

From the St. Augustine Record:

Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort would like to build a water park on the green oval area to the right of the hotel’s swimming pool. [CONTRIBUTED]

By Christen Kelley
Posted Aug 27, 2019 at 6:31 AM
Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach is petitioning for an appeal of a judge’s recent ruling against building a splash park on its property.

The developers of the beachfront hotel submitted a request to the city in 2018 for a permit to construct a children’s splash playground with a water slide on the grounds of the Hilton-run Embassy Suites Oceanfront Resort.

The project was met with opposition not only from the city but from local residents who felt a splash park would not fit in with the city’s aesthetic or surrounding natural areas, including Anastasia State Park directly to the north of the property.

After city commissioners and planning and zoning board members rejected the developer’s request, the company filed a lawsuit.

But in April, a circuit judge ruled in favor of the city, upholding its rights to deny the splash park from being built.

Now the company is asking for an appeal, claiming the city and the court ignored the law and based their findings on general opinion. Key Beach North, the developer and owner of the property, filed the petition in the 5th District Court of Appeal on Thursday.

“None of those findings identified any provision of the City’s Land Development Code that the project violated,” the petition reads. “Instead, the City rejected the project on the basis of a grab bag of complaints that had nothing to do with any standard prescribed by the Code.”

According to the petition, the City Commission listed multiple reasons for denying the proposal during the public hearing, including a failure to address parking and landscaping concerns as well as an overall incompatibility with the surrounding area. There was also debate over whether the structure would surpass the city’s height limit of 35 feet and whether that is to be measured from sea level. Commissioners noted the project’s unpopularity during the hearing before deciding to deny.

St. Augustine Beach Mayor Undine George said she couldn’t go into details on the pending litigation because she was the one who made the motion and signed the order to deny the permit, but she called the lawsuit an “open wound.”

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“Their success is going to be our success, so it’s just a shame that that conflict is perpetuating,” George said. “I would like to see both sides move on so we can heal.”

The petition states that the circuit judge gave the Commission “unfettered discretion to deny any landowner the right to use its property if, in the opinion of a majority of the commissioners, the height of a proposed project renders it aesthetically distasteful.”

Jane West, PZB member and practicing attorney, said the odds are not in favor of Key Beach North.

“I’m baffled that they are continuing to waste our taxpayer money instead of enjoying the fact that they have a wildly successful, beautiful hotel,” she said. “It just seems like an awful lot of muscle for a splash park that this community has made abundantly clear that they don’t want.”

West said even if the courts rule in favor of the city again, the developer can alter its plans and come back with another building permit request.

“I really thought that that would be the last step,” West said. “But given how they’re proceeding with this, I just don’t think that this is the end of it.”

In a statement emailed to The Record when the lawsuit was filed last summer, Key International, parent company of Key Beach North, said: “Our intention with this property has always been to enhance the beautiful City of St. Augustine Beach by creating a destination that aesthetically complements its surroundings and benefits the area in various capacities. We look forward to reaching a resolution regarding completion of the resort’s on-site splash playground, which we believe is in keeping with the allowed uses for the property under existing codes.”

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