Sunday, January 19, 2020

GUEST COLUMN | Hold the line on over-development. (SAR)

Mr. Keto Burns has a wonderful guest column in this morning's St. Augustine Record.  I hope SACA revises its charter to include all of St. Johns County.

SACA is a great group and does great work, under Col. George Jacunski, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Dr. William McCormick, Ph.D., and now under Mr. Burns.

Contrary to the editorial in the Record last year, the Circuit Court Judge's ruling on standing for SACA was a correct interpretation of current state law precedents.

Unfortunately, SACA did not then have members who lived close enough to the proposed development, and its charter did not then cover the mainland.  In the future, the legal standing problem in any future legal actions will be resolved if learned counsel for SACA, Jane West, uses the judge's order denying SACA intervention as a checklist for all future environmental law work in the future!

Jim Sutton's editorial on South Anastasia Communities Association lack of standing in the King's Grant case was unadorned by any actual quotes from the Circuit Court Judge's October 1, 2019 order.

Perhaps in the future the Record would be so kind as to illuminate matters by posting the actual court orders it writes about, instead of baby talking down to us, as if we were potted plants.

The doctrine of legal "standing" in litigation is governed by U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions.

I wish trees and rivers had constitutional rights, as Justice William O. Douglas proposed.

Some countries' constitutions give natural rights to nature, as God intended.

But today, the doctrine of "standing" is governed by Supreme Court decisions, including Sierra Club v. Morton, with which I disagree, but which is mandatory authority today.

Learned counsel for SACA has made errors before, and should know how to correct them to establish standing in the future.

I welcomed Jim Sutton writing an editorial criticizing a government official.  Perhaps the Record, under GANNETT ownership, will now put on its big boy pants and write editorials criticizing the Republican Lord of All He Surveys, Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994.

But rather than take potshots at a judge for issuing a decision, next time, the St. Augustine Record editorial writer should read the decision and then opine (instead of the reverse).

Fortunately, the County Attorney and outside counsel (Wayne Flowers from Lewis, Longman & Walker) maintained their strong position, and the foreign-funded "developer" folded like a cheap suit rolling over like a refugee boat.  Empowered by SACA, St. Johns County Commissioners stood up to the developers' oppression.

We won another one, thanks to SACA.

Quo vobis videtor?

(Latin for "What do y'all reckon?")

Here's today's guest column by heroic SACA, which stands like Horatio at the Bridge, guarding our democracy and protecting our history and nature from Temple Destroyers, as John Muir called them:

These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.

GUEST COLUMN | Hold the line on over-development

By Keto Burns, St. Augustine
Posted Jan 18, 2020 at 5:01 PM
The South Anastasia Communities Association (SACA) wishes to thank county commissioners for their votes on the proposed Kings Grant development over the past five years.

The South Anastasia Communities Association (SACA) wishes to thank county commissioners for their votes on the proposed Kings Grant development over the past five years.

Kings Grant was a massive residential and commercial development proposed for the intersection of Interstate 95 and State Road 206. SACA opposed Kings Grant, arguing that it was inconsistent with our comprehensive plan, was leapfrog development, would stress our infrastructure in terms of roads and fire protection and was inconsistent with the adjoining area rural silviculture. The first vote was on Sept. 15, 2015. The vote was 3-2 in favor of denying the development.

What followed was years of appeals by the developer, arbitration attempts, resubmission of the plans and continued pressure on the commissioners to approve this plan. Ultimately the developer sued the county seeking to overturn its initial decision. Throughout it all the county remained firm.

SACA joined with the county in defending the suit brought by the developer. Members of SACA spent thousands of hours in writing letters, being deposed by the developers’ legal team and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and other costs such as expert testimony.

While the membership of the County Commission has changed over the five years, the majority of the board has sustained support for the denial of the Kings Grant development. The commissioners demonstrated commitment to the comprehensive plan, to sustainable development, and appreciation for the rural nature of the southern part of the county. They showed integrity in staying the course of defending the principles put forth in the comprehensive plan.

The developers withdrew the suit on Jan. 2, 2020, just days before a mediation was scheduled. While this is a victory for the people of St. Johns county, the developers dropped the suit as a condition of the sale of the land to another developer. So the fight may not be over. It will take continued vigilance and community involvement if this victory is to be sustained.

A state agency reported recently that an average of 640 people/day move into Florida. It feels like they are all coming to St. Johns County. We know we can’t stop growth but we want to protect what makes this county special, its diversity.

Burns is president of the board of directors of South Anastasia Communities Association. This column was a joint effort of the board of directors.

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