SAVE THE CORAZON MOVIE THEATER, UPDATE: After numerous questions went unanswered by Ponte Vedra developer JAY McGARVEY, St. Augustine City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday, October 25, 2021 to table the controversial proposed 36 Granada Street LLC PUD until November 8, 2021.
Like a nudist crossing a barbed wire fence, Major GARY BRIAN DAVENPORT tip-toed through the flak, as he watched his developer client, JAY McGARVEY, go to the microphone.
It was not a success.
JAY McGARVEY, sworn is a witness, emitted effrontery, asking Commissioners questions instead of making a presentation.
- City Planning and Building Director David Douglas Birchim said that McGARVEY may want sidewalk dining and an awning over the sidewalk for his "upscale" restaurants.
- Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline asked about the three curb cuts in the parking lot, with other Commissioners agreeing they reduced walkability.
- Mayor Upchurch began by asking Mr. McGARVEY's lawyer to answer questions.
- Instead of speaking through his lawyer, the "Applicant" identified in the PUD application, GARY DAVENPORT -- developer JAY McGARVEY said, "I am the Applicant," even though paperwork lists his lawyer, GARY DAVENPORT, as the applicant. It was an Al Haig moment, where McGARVEY sought to assert himself.
- Longtime developers JAY McGARVEY lied under oath and said that the property is "not historic," a bold-faced lie. (Building built in 1880). 39:16. Mayor Upchurch and City Planning and Building Director Davie Birchim corrected him. 44:20
- McGARVEY demanded to know why HARB had jurisdiction when the building is "not in a historic district" (because he in turn demands a partial demolition). 40:05
- Commissioner Barbara Blonder:
- noted numerous questions and comments of hers that were never answered by McGARVEY & Co.
- asked, as she did on September 27, 2021 "Where is the public benefit?" 45:42
- said the fact that the building is "deteriorating is not in and of itself a public benefit," she said.
- said there are "no design elements that make this building more resilient to flooding," she said.
- said McGARVEY made only "minor word changes" to the PUD narrative, with very little that was responsive to her concerns.
- said only one native plant species is listed.
- said "there is no sustainability aspect to the PUD.
- noted there is "no seating chart."
- need no answers on ride share program.
- noted no answer on size of reproduced historic Feed Store sign.
- said anywhere there is aq curb cut reduces mobility and safety for pedestrians, bicycles and automobiles.
- said the site plan and landscape conflict on sidewalk.
- said the application is "incomplete and I will vote against it."
- McGARVEY said "we just heard from HARB on Friday morning." (HARB actually met Thursday).
- "Excuse me, I made those comments" a month ago, Commissioner Blonder replied,
- "I wasn't aware of that," McGaARVEY said, stating he had been ill and had not attended the September 27, 2021 Commission meeting, which is available on the City video archives and which his lawyer, "Applicant" GARY DAVENPORT attended on his behalf.
- "We did not realize that a seating chart was required for PUD approval," McGARVEY claimed.
- McGARVEY said, "I am a fan of sidewalks," stating he would be "happy" to "close one of the curb cuts."
- Commissioner Roxanne Horvath, an architect, said she did not see how McGARVEY would lose any parking spaces by eliminating one of three curb cuts on the DeSoto Street side.
- Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline asked about plans for a bike rack. McGARVEY said his prospective chain store tenants have bike racks at their Jacksonville restaurants. Commissioner Sikes-Kline asked McGARVEY show bike rack locations on his plans "when you return."
- Commissioner John Otha Valdes says, as hew always does, "I like this project," saying McGARVEY does "good quality stuff." He later repeated himself, "I think this is a good project," stating "I'm going to support it." Making a modified George McClure argument, Valdes said, "I think this is a good use. It could be a lot worse."
- Commissioner Valdes said he was "perplexed" about native plants, recounting the history of St. Augustine as a Spanish colony.
- Commissioner Blonder said "one of the public benefits" justifying a PUD could be showing native plants here since the last Ice Age and "reduced use of fertilizers, pesticides and water."
- Mayor Upchurch said, like Valdes, he was inclined to support the project,
- Mayor Upchurch moved to table the PUD until the November 8 meeting, "giving the developer more time to come back with a more fuller, more robust response."
- Ms. Barbara Jean Kalaidi:
- asked when McGARVEY would be required to obtain approval for an awning and palm trees on the public right-of-way.
- asked about the size of the proposed reproduction Feed Store sign.
- noted overdevelopment on Prawn Street and other uglification.
- noted that during the HARB meeting, there was mention of outdoor seating -- is it on the Granada Street side, or is the DeSoto Street side?
- agreed the PUD must set forth any public benefit "in black and white."
- Ed Slavin (that would be me):
- testified that the structure should be a local landmark, and if not, the PUD should be denied.
- said the PUD needs to include a replacement movie theater to replace the cultural centers (The Corazon Pot Belly's Cinema), I said, The developer "bought a movie theater with the intention of destroying it." I have referred the matter of the theater closure to the Justice Department Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission.
- noted that the precedent would allow any structure to be converted into a bar by use of a PUD.
- said we don't want St. Augustine turned into Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a noisome, noisy place where the partying never stops. "We don't need that." (I once observed a couple on King & Avenida Menendez -- the man said, "It looks a lot like New Orleans," and the lady said, "But it smells a whole lot better.")
- said Commissioner Blonder and the other Commissioners have done a magificent job.
- noted that paragraph 14 claims "no infrastructure analysis" plan is required, claiming it is exempt.
- due to pervasive flooding downtown, called for a development moratorium in flood-prone areas until those problems are addressed.
- asked for proper response to our St. Augustine PUD ordinance requirement to disclose the legally responsive entity for continuing operations and maintenance of the project. (McGARVEY's response is the name of the LLC, without naming a point of contact or actual owners.
- objected to McGARVEY's proposed PUD requirement for stormwater retention, suggesting the need for underground vaults as the late architect and PZB member Jerry Dixon did in designs for properties in St. Augustine.
- Objected to the failure to list any particular individual restaurants or corporations responsible for compliance e on ride share, intended to reduce parking requirements for employees.
- Objected to failure to list actual owners and investors
- Objected to McGARVEY's hiring as attorney and "Applicant" a full-time federal employee, Florida National Guard Major GARY BRIAN DAVENPORT, the top lawyer in the Florida National Guard, headquartered in St. Augustine. (In our only conversation about the project, mendacious Major DAVENPORT asked me, "are you going to give me a hard time?" Major DAVENPORT told me the PUD and his representation were "none of [my] business in a brief July 5, 2021 telephone conversation, which he ended by hanging up. McGARVEY's Charlie McCarthy or amanuensis, the Marquette University law school graduate and longtime local real estate lawyer who drafted the proposed PUD and is still representing McGARVEY in dealings with the City of St. Augustine, despite being a full-time federal employee.
- Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline seconded Mayor Upchurch's motion to table the PUD, and she specifically asked for:
- curb cuts to be addressed in site plan,
- a sign plan element like other PUDs,
- bike racks in site plan,
- circulation to be addressed in site plan,
- landscape materials to be climax vegetation,
- the PUD narrative to set forth some "clear public benefit"
- the PUD to state clearly in PUD narrative, "what is the deviation" -- alcohol sales,
- specifics on ride share (reduces emissions). need to start taking seriously transportation
- Commissioner Roxanne Horvath asked about the current coquina parking, which she said does percolate to some degree. She asked if the developer has to keep the water on the property and Mr. Birchim said it did, and that McGARVEY had already submitted civil engineering plan for grading and draining parking
- Commissioner Barbara Blonder "encourage[d] the applicant to makes a concerted effort to show public benefit, such as permeable pavers, that it "go above and beyond [minimum requirements], if you please"
- All five Commissioners errouneously said that they had any ex parte communications on the project, failing to mention the e-mails they have had from citizens, including me.
- After all of the questions by Commissioners and two citizens, neither JAY McGARVEY nor Major GARY Brian DAVENPORT returned to the podium to rebut or respond to Commissioner and citizen statements, questions and comments.
- This operates as an "adoptive admission," or "admission by silence."
By unanimous 5-0 vote, St. Augustine City Commissioners rightly postponed (tabled) until November 8 the "incomplete" PUD application from Ponte Vedra developer JAY McGARVEY and his lawyer, GARY BRIAN DAVENPORT, Florida National Guard Major and the top lawyer in Florida National Guard, a full-time federal employee.
Both McGARVEY and have stiffed Commissioners on their questions and conners. Both have refused to answer my questions.
Three cheers for five St. Augustine Commissioners asking questions, demanding answers and expecting developers to obey the law.
Check out the video here, commenting at 34:17, or click on the left to agenda item 8.A.2:
8.A.2. Ordinance 2021-25: Amends the zoning of 36 Granada Street (CL-1) and 8 DeSoto Place (RG-1) to Planned Unit Development (PUD). (D. Birchim, Director Planning and Building)
Footnote: I have been reporting on this scandalous PUD application since July, and during this time the disdainful developer and his louche lawyer have not deigned to answer any of my questions, or most of City Commission's questions!
Contributions gratefully accepted: support my zealous public interest advocacy and investigative reporting.
1. What is a Planned Unit Development (PUD)? Former PZB member Cathy Brown says PUDs are "a sneaky way to get around zoning."
PUDs are supposed to enable creative and resourceful planning and wise use of resources if there is a public bernefit.
St. Augustine City Code Sections 28-286 and 28-287 provide:
2. What is the sole purpose of 36 Granada Street LLC PUD?
To obtain a liquor license for Ponte Vedra developer JAY McGARVEY to open an ugly strip mall with three businesses in it, in place of CORAZON MOVIE THEATER & CAFE.
3. Why does 36 Granada Street LLC PUD matter?
This PUD is neither creative and resourceful planning nor a wise us of resources. If this PUD is enacted, any money launderer or organized crime figure could buy a property, call it a PUD, and demand a liquor license.
Already, public spaces have been privatized for private use, including Lighthouse, Lighthouse Restaurant and Community Center, Dow Museum of Historic Homes, etc.
IF this feculent, fetid, forced PUD is allowed, a developer could buy historic properties owned by the State of Florida, City of St. Augustine, the St. Augustine Historical Society, the Women's Exchange Building, etc., call it a "PUD" and get a full liquor license, hesto presto.
This would usher in a gold rush era, a continuing heist or historic resources, as property owners monetize their properties, leading to corruption. In Tennessee, disgraced former Governor Ray Blanton sold liquor licenses and went to prison for it. Elsewhere, liquor licenses are frequently subjects of bribes and criminal prosecutions investigated by FBI, USDOJ, its Criminal Division and Public Corruption section, and state and local law enforcement.
See, e,g., March 2, 2011 FBI press release, "Former St. Louis Liquor Control Officer Sentenced on Bribery Charges" re: United States v. JAMES ALLEN MORGAN, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/stlouis/press-releases/2011/sl030211a.htm
4. Cui bono? (Who benefits?). No one but undisclosed investors. There is no public benefit.
5. Who are the investors and beneficial owners of 36 Granada Street LLC PUD? St. Augustine PUD law requires disclosure of corporate ownership, but we don't know who is investing in the project, and the developer and lawyer are not saying. The 36 Granada Street LLC PUD is headquartered in "Class C" office space at 77 Almeria Street, a 1248 square foot tiny house, an historic 1920 St. Augustine house that is home to a property management company and the listed address for some 94 corporations registered with the Florida Secretary of State Division of Corporations. Money-laundering is especially prevalent in Florida real estate, and Florida officials practice what the law calls "willful blindness" whenever the investor and beneficial owner question is asked.
6. Stench of potential corruption is overwhelming on this shambolic PUD project.
When a Ponte Vedra developer hired a full-time federal employee -- highest Florida National Guard lawyer GARY BRIAN DAVENPORT -- to seek a PUD just to get a liquor license, it raised a stench in the nostrils of our Nation. DAVENPORT was rude, insulting and hung up the telephone July 5, 2021, questioning my reputation as a "disbarred lawyer." I wear his scorn as a badge of honor. He's never provided me with a copy of any legal document that empowers a full-time federal employee lawyer to represent developers before St. Augustine City Commission or anywhere else. I've reported him to the Inspector General of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.
Thanks to Commissioners for asking questions, demanding answers and expecting compliance with the zoning laws of our Nation's Oldest City.