Monday, July 04, 2022

St. Johns County seeks to buy $2 million Crescent Beach property for parking County plans to raze former restaurant building. (SAR

$2 million to buy and demolish an oceanfront restaurant for parking. 

It's our money. 

St. Johns County Administrator HUNTER SINCLAIR CONRAD did not put this item on the County Commission for discussion, but snuck it on the consent agenda.  No citizen spoke.  No Commissioner spoke.

I question the process.

The last lessee of a popular restaurant ran the business into the ground, amidst allegations of wage theft and dupery.  The owner, a surgeon's widow, was willing to sell the property, and the County was willing to buy it.  There were two appraisals. 

But it seems that the $2 million would've been better spent on conservation land, at a time when our Land Acquisition Management Plan (LAMP) Board, newly recreated, has a $500,000 annual ceiling on what it can recommend for purchase of conservation land.

Meanwhile, this $2 million purchase was not referred to LAMP.

It should have been on the regular agenda, with a presentation, 

There is too much secrecy in St. Johns County government.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote, "Secrecy is for losers, for people who don't understand the value of the information.,"

We need to stop the train -- this is the second time St. Johns County has acquired a beachfront restaurant, taking business property off the tax rolls, without coming clean about costs and benefits.  The County also acquired Fiddler's Green Restaurant, only to tear it down, with a county park in progress. 

Meanwhile, the idle rich continue buying properties, depriving working people of affordable housing, and erasing oceanfront restaurants where we could enjoy beauty.

Former St. Johns County Commissioner Ben Rich, Sr. told me in 2008 that the Establishment in St. Johns County wanted to erase working people from access to our beaches.  

We, the People, defeated efforts to inflict beach paring meters on county and St. Augustine Beach.  

We should insist that no more tax money be spent on demolishing beachfront restaurants.  

We shield insist on greater transparency -- the consent agenda is systematically abused, year after year, and no one seems to give a fig, least of all the tedious remnant of the St. Augustine Record, which still prints government and corporate press releases, de facto or de jure, without protecting the public interest,

While there may be good reasons to spend $2 million for more beach parking, the amount added is de minimis, if not de micromis.

Land acquisition, like. democracy, is not a spectator sport.

While two County Commissioners once attacked our Mosquito Control District for planning a $3 million mosquito museum without public input, that process was open, publicized and ongoing for several years.  

In contrast, St. Johns County spent $2 million with no public involvement, nothing on the regular agenda, no public input, and no effort to provide for a replacement oceanfront restaurant. 

It's our money.

Read the consent agenda item, resolution and sales contract draft here.

From St. Augustine Record:

St. Johns County seeks to buy $2 million Crescent Beach property for parking

County plans to raze former restaurant building

Sheldon Gardner
St. Augustine Record
The closed South Beach Grill in Crescent Beach shares a parking lot with St. Johns County's Crescent Beach Park.

St. Johns County plans to expand parking at Crescent Beach Park by purchasing adjacent land for $2 million at a former restaurant site. 

St. Johns County commissioners recently approved the expense, but the county is still finalizing the purchase, county spokeswoman Lorena Inclan said. 

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The property, owned by Coquina Beach Holdings in Ponte Vedra Beach, is the former South Beach Grill restaurant site, and the restaurant building is still there.  

A St. Johns County government map shows the location of land that the county plans to buy for $2 million, which will allow the county to add to off-beach parking spaces.

"This property is ideal for creating additional off-beach parking, as this location is adjacent to Crescent Beach Park, which will allow the county to utilize the existing restrooms, pavilion and beach access, reducing the cost of development," according to the resolution adopted by commissioners. 

The county has 112 parking spaces in Crescent Beach, a popular spot for residents and visitors, according to Inclan. The Crescent Beach Park lot often meets capacity. 

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