Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Santa Maria plans revived in St. Augustine. (SAR)

Promising project to help revive our working waterfront in St. Augustine.  It is reminiscent of the old Thompson Bros. Clam Bar, a favorite of my mom and mine when we vacationed on Cape Cod.

The flavor of seafood is enhanced when you're at a restaurant on the water.

Memories are made for life for tourist families enjoying seafood on the water.

Allowing boaters to sail to the restaurant will add to its nautical flair, and will be an assert to our City.

The White family had to endure a lot of grief and guff and retaliation to get to this point.

Mayor Nancy Shaver never knowingly met with applicants for zoning favors, except one (1) time -- she met with the White family and their then-attorney last year, knowing that the Whites had been maltreated by the City.  We believe that corruption and retaliation for First Amendment protected activity were the root of this evil treatment of the Whites.

White's Wharf was delayed too long by City burghers.  What's going on here?

  • ROGERS TOWERS partner ELLEN AVERY-SMITH did a rather inept job of presenting the case for the Whites, winging it, even admitting she drafted the request for vested rights in her car on a legal pad, on the fly.  When representing tree-killing, wetland-filling developers, Ms. AVERY-SMITH works zealously.  In poorly representing the White family, she reminded me of the Memphis State U. basketball team under coach Dana Kirk, who bet against his own team and went to federal prison.  A Memphis police officer friend told me even his ten year old son thought Kirk was throwing games he could have won.  Deviation from the standard of care? Legal malpractice?
  • Were other businesses on Avenida Menendez, like VIRGINIA WHETSTONE, using their ample elbows?
  • Were St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Commissioners or ex-Commissioners like JOHN CARL BLOW, current chair of the Florida Inland Navigation District, using their elbows?
  • Assistant City Manager TIMOTHY J. BURCHFIELD, whose last day is Monday, October 14, 2019, is a retaliatory energumen.  BURCHFIELD was the thermal equivalent of Lavrenti Berea to corrupt former City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS's hick hack Joseph Stalin.  
  • Bumptious bigoted bully BURCHFIELD had a hate-on for anyone criticizing the City, suing the City or supporting reformers.  He used homophobic slurs.  He was a racist. He harassed City employees displaying Nancy Shaver signs in their yards, and asked at least one to take it down.  
Long observation of the City and knowledge of the facts lead me to conclude that the City (read: BURCHFIELD) was probably  retaliating against the White family for their successful 2005 litigation, in which Judge J. Michael Traynor correctly held that HARB members wrongfully relied upon their own testimony about the history of windows in a structure on Marine Street.
Retaliation against the Whites for winning that case has persisted for fourteen years, in my humble opinion.  (Footnote: When City Commissioners were angry and incredulous at his correct ruling, I laughed, leading to the then-Mayor to kick me out of a June 13, 2005 Commission meeting (the same one where haughty homophobic Commissioners voted 3-1 to ban all but government flags on our Bridge of Lions, Commissioner Joe Boles dissenting.  I stood in the door with my wingtip holding at ajar, listening to the rest of the pitiful proceedings that evening.).

Our itty-bitty City is less corrupt than it was under HARRISS (1998-2010), but still shows brazen favoritism to dodgy developers.

All that some moneybags have to do is snap their fingers and they get Commission approval for bad projects, e.g., DAVID BARTON CORNEAL's (DOW PUD) and LOUIS JOHN ARBIZZANI (LICENSE TO USE A BLOCK OF CUNA STREET FOR A RESTAURANT)!  At least our beloved Mayor Nancy Shaver knew how to provide a fair quasi-judicial hearing.  We miss her,.

Santa Maria was never a good restaurant.  It was a stench in the nostrils of our Nation's Oldest City.

When we first visited here in August 1992, after the landmark month-long Varnadore v. Oak Ridge National Laboratory whistleblower trial,  Brian and I walked in and walked out of the Santa Maria, without ordering anything.  We were disgusted by the notorious tourist trap with dirty tables, whose business model was to ripoff tourists who would never come back again.  We never ate there, and some locals called it "Ptomaine Torner."  ("Typhoid Mary" never worked there, but she would have if she could have.)

The Santa Maria has been vacant for some five years, falling apart.

The Whites have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the City's approval to proceed with a new structure.

The White family has been more than patient and the City Commission needs to grant their request for vested rights at the October 14, 2019 Commission meeting.

It will be a fitting rebuke to nasty TIMOTHY BURCHFIELD.

From the St. Augustine Record:

Santa Maria plans revived in St. Augustine

By Sheldon Gardner
Posted at 5:00 PM
St. Augustine Record

Plans for demolishing the Santa Maria and building a new restaurant are moving forward again.

White’s Wharf, the property owner, has a vested rights request on Monday’s City Commission agenda. If approved, it will help clear the way for the project to begin. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m.

City Manager John Regan said he’s been working with the White family on the project for a few months to get the project back in front of the City Commission. The Whites also own O.C. White’s nearby.

“It’s a very important project to the city because it’s an iconic part of the bayfront,” Regan said. “They have a fabulous plan to create a wonderful fresh seafood restaurant.”

In 2018, the White family sought a development agreement with the city but pulled the request before commissioners voted on the matter — commissioners were concerned about bypassing Planning and Zoning Board review for parts of the plan.

The Santa Maria building has been decaying over the Matanzas River south of the Bridge of Lions since the restaurant closed in 2015. The White family bought the property that year.

Law firm The McLeod Firm, on behalf of White’s Wharf, is asking for the city to agree that the property’s history as a restaurant and bar exempts it from certain laws.

It was built as a private residence between 1910 and 1917, and it was used as a home and oyster house in the ’20s and became Corbett’s Fish House by 1930, according to a letter to the city from the firm. The letter says that city laws that would apply to the development weren’t adopted until later.

The city’s Historic Architectural Review Board has already approved plans for the building, which would have two stories, and the demolition permit for the existing building.

If approved by the City Commission, the vested rights determination on the table Monday would agree that, among other things:

• The owner has the right to build a two-story building.

• The owner won’t have to pay utility connection fees for the 198 seats that have already been allowed at the site in previous years.

• That no parking spaces will be required for the 198 seats.

• That a new sign like the old Santa Maria sign can be used — the old sign was neon green, and neon signs usually aren’t allowed, Regan said.

Part of the delay since 2015 has come from opposition to plans for a dock that would allow patrons to pull up in a boat. People who use the city marina, which is just to the north, have expressed concerns about an added dock making navigation dangerous.

The vested rights determination wouldn’t approve the dock, Regan said. The Whites would have to seek approval for that from the city’s Planning and Zoning Board.

But the city has worked with the Whites to come up with a design that would be acceptable for the city marina, Regan said. The dock would be slightly farther south and would allow boats to park parallel to the dock.

Another key issue has been plans to expand the restaurant capacity, which would require parking spaces to be provided. The Whites want to expand the seating capacity to 300 seats, Regan said.

That is also not addressed by the vested rights agreement, Regan said. The Whites would have to seek approval from the Planning and Zoning Board to have offsite parking, Regan said.

Jennifer White, a member of the White family who is part of the restaurant project, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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