Tuesday, August 25, 2015

4-1 Vote Approves DOW PUD: Case Heading for Circuit Court

UPDATE: City commissioners approve rezoning on former Dow property
Posted: August 24, 2015 - 11:38pm


Commissioners voted 4-1 to adopt the ordinance to rezone the former Dow Museum of Historic Houses with several tweaks to the development plan.

The rezoning is for 143 Cordova St. from a historic preservation district to Planned Unit Development for a boutique hotel.

Commissioners finished making changes close to 1 a.m.

Mayor Nancy Shaver voted against the ordinance, cautioning commissioners against moving forward an ordinance that she said was not ready.

“I would just like to state again that … what we have in front of us does not meet the bar that we are asked to meet with a PUD (Planned Unit Development),” Shaver said


Testimony and public comment ran late Monday night at St. Augustine City Hall as people spoke to the City Commission about the proposed Cordova Inn, which would transform a historic property into a boutique hotel with up to 30 nightly rentals.

By about 10:30 p.m., people were still commenting to commissioners on the project, which would rezone about an acre from Historic Preservation District-One to Planned Unit Development, or PUD, to allow for an upscale inn at 143 Cordova St. The property was previously the Dow Museum of Historic Houses and contains close 10 historic properties.

Scores of people packed the room at the beginning of the St. Augustine City Commission meeting at 5 p.m., and some watched from an overflow area outside the meeting room. The ordinance was on second reading and public comment.

The project has stirred strong support and opposition, with some concerned that allowing the commercial rezoning would pose a threat to existing residential areas in historic St. Augustine. Those in favor and the developer’s team have said it would provide a way to preserve the historic structures on the property that have deteriorated over the years.

“I am in favor of the proposed Cordova Inn PUD because I really truly believe that [the] inn will best suit the needs of St. Augustine and its residents long term,” said Barbara Acosta, who was born in St. Augustine and now lives in the county outside the city. “I love this city and have a very strong personal connection to this site with my Menorcan … ancestry.”

But many people were against the rezoning. Arguments against the change focused on the possibility that approving the PUD would encourage commercial encroachment in the HP-1 residential zone as well as the use of a tavern on the property and how that would be handled, with delivery and garbage trucks coming onto the property and increased trash.

For people who don’t think trash will be major problem at the site, “You’ve got another thing coming,” said Judith Seraphin, of Lincolnville. “Please say no to this PUD.”

The PUD application has been cycling through the city since February, when the application was filed for the Planning and Zoning Board’s March meeting. Since the last meeting in July, when the commission passed the rezoning ordinance on first reading, the PUD has come back with revisions.

Among other changes, the parking plan has been fleshed out. Parking under the PUD would mostly be provided by leased space at 4 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and/or 116 La Quinta Place, which will provide at least 26 spaces, according to the application. The site will use valet parking.

The PUD also provides for public tours by appointment at least once per week, and for the property to be open during Art Walk on the first Friday of each month.

The plan calls for a tavern that would serve alcohol from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., which some people questioned.

One of the main arguments made by the developer’s team was that using the property as an upscale inn would bring in enough revenue to maintain the historic property, and they provided examples other developments David Corneal has been a part of.

“This PUD rezoning will allow for property restoration and long-term preservation of eight historic structures that are situated on this property along with the historic grounds,” said Ellen Avery-Smith, an attorney for Corneal.

The developer’s team also cited an opinion paper from the University of Florida, which supported the project and said it would be a “high value” for the city, county and state of Florida. Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline asked for UF to look into the issue.

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