Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Free Street Freeloaders Demand Another Free "Vacation?" -- West San Sebastian Street to Be Given Away by St. Augustine City Commission?

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Under Florida law, landowners can ask a city or county to "vacate" a street if it's no longer used or if it's in the "public interest." Under Florida law, the "vacation" is free -- no charge, no sale, no lease. It's in Florida Attorney General Opinions. Our supine City staff had no objection, and on first reading August 10, City Commissioners unanimously passed a "street vacation" for West San Sebastian Street, from which obliging City staff have already removed the stop sign AND removed the street sign.

Attorney JOHN BAILEY from UPCHURCH, BAILEY and UPCHURCH, representing HISTORIC TOURS OF AMERICA and the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, filed a $400 application fee and wants the "nub of a street" vacated.

Here's the history: former City Commissioner SUSAN BURK's boyfriend wanted a used car lot on U.S. 1. After mercifully brief employment as a police officer and a code enforcement officer, then City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS had West San Sebastian built, allowing the used car lot to be built on U.S. 1.

Now the new owners are building a "Welcome Center" that will contribute to safety hazards and traffic congestion on U.S. 1. They want our street. They've offered no money for it. Perfectly legal under Florida statutes.

But is it "in the public interest? You tell me.

Is it crooked? Check out 18 U.S.C. 666.

How many campaign contributions have JOHN BAILEY, other lawyers UPCHURCH, BAILEY and UPCHURCH, HISTORIC TOURS OF AMERICA and the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH made to past and present elected officials?

Does DANA STE. CLAIRE, 450th Director, plan to return to work for HISTORIC TOURS OF AMERICA after his job ends on September 30th?

Come speak out at the public hearing at 5 PM on August 24, 2015, 75 King Street, St. Augustine, Florida.

From: []
Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 9:37 AM
To: Martha Graham; Mark Litzinger; Meredith Breidenstein; Todd Grant; John Regan; Lucy Fountain; Isabelle Lopez; Denise May; Debra Gibson
Subject: Re: Request 2015-271: West San Sebastian -- Cost of Street, Sidewalk, Drainage and other Infrastructure; Investment in Maintenance and Street Cleaning; Legal and Accounting Advice on Fiduciary Duty Implications of Vacation of "Road to Nowhere," As Foll...

Good morning:
1. Please send complete Public Works file on West San Sebastian as PDF.
2. Please provide complete accounting of all money spent on West San Sebastian.
3. Florida law requires that street vacations be "in the public interest."
4. This street is often used by police vehicles to catch speeders.
5. It is still being used and provides access to the river and railroad for rescue vehicles in emergencies.
6. No "public interest" in street vacation was established at the first public hearing.
7. Please provide data today.
8. I noticed that the applicant's counsel had a thick file.
9. The City must provide all documents on West San Sebastian so that Commissioners can determine if there is any public interest in road "vacation." It's our road.
10. It appears that this proposed giveaway is not in the public interest and may violate 18 U.S.C. 666: the road should never have been built in the first place and is being sought without meeting the required legal tests in Florida law. As the Florida Attorney General opined in 1978:
A municipality is empowered to vacate streets only when the vacation is in the public interest or when the street is no longer required for public use and convenience. 64 C.J.S. Municipal Corporations s. 1668. Consequently, in AGO 078-118, I noted, as a caveat, with respect to the vacation of county roads:
"[I]f the general public is using the roads and streets in question (including public service vehicles such as garbage trucks, police, fire or emergency vehicles), then the county should not close or vacate the roads or streets in question as such vacation would be injurious to the public welfare or violate individual property rights."
11. No further special favors should be shown regarding this "road to nowhere."
12. West San Sebastian was built at the behest of Commissioner SUSAN BURK by then City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS to service Ms. BURK's boyfriend's used car lot business and thereby coopt Ms. BURK's vote in the City Commission. This was corrupt .
13. Now we are being asked to give away West San Sebastian to an oligopolistic tour company, "a sordid boon," in the words of William Wordsworth. Why?
14. Hold this influential law firm and oligopolistic tour company to the legal standard: No free roads for billionaires..
15. Staff must review this proposal with a gimlet eye, please.
16. Do you agree that the CIty of St. Augustine has no antitrust immunity for undeserved gifts of roads to an oligopolistic tour company?
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

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