City to buy marshfront lots Public space and flood control won the day Monday as the City Commission voted to purchase two marshfront lots in Davis Shores, listed for sale at $459,000. Over 1½ hours Davis Shores residents – most having been flooded during hurricanes Matthew and Irma – pleaded for commissioners to support purchasing the property, which Public Works Director Mike Cullum considers key to correcting flooding conditions over a wide area of south Davis Shores. Cullum said a berm (land barrier) on the property “will disburse the water over hundreds of thousands of wetlands – the intracoastal waterway.” But proposal sponsor Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman also pushed hard for the property’s use as a park. “It is the only neighborhood that I know of in the city that doesn’t have a neighborhood park,” she said before speakers in a public comment period agreed. Debby Leonard, who also bid on the property, told commissioners she was pursuing her dream to build her own house and is a master gardener. “I would be happy to work with the city on easements, whatever would be necessary to make this a possibility.” City Manager John Regan will get an appraisal and negotiate with the sellers to complete the sale.
January 16 2019
Master of Ragtime at Grace Church Bob Milne, master of ragtime and boogie-woogie piano documented by the Library of Congress in 2004 and declared to be “a National Treasure,” will return for an encore performance at Grace United Methodist Church’s Music at Grace Sunday January 27 at 3 pm. Originally a horn player and assistant 1st horn in the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic at age 19, he retired from horn playing at age 22 to play the piano. He became a Musical Ambassador for the United States for six years, touring widely in Japan, Okinawa, Hokkaido, Switzerland, and more. He plays up to 250 performances a year across the United States and world and has played “command performances” for presidents, foreign dignitaries, members of congress, and more. While he lives in Lapeer, Michigan he winters in Florida, making this performance for Music at Grace possible.
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Pigs survive 1st round in animal code update City commissioners Monday passed to second reading and public hearing an animal code update without changing the weight and number of household pigs as recommended by the Planning and Zoning Board (PZB). The plan board had recommended a change to one pig, not to exceed 50 pounds, among four allowed pets in a household. “I’ve researched this since the PZB meeting,” Assistant City Attorney John Cary told commissioners. “Most household pigs are over 50 pounds, they can even be over 100 pounds. So the 50 pound limit is probably not appropriate.” City Attorney Isabelle Lopez added, “A mature potbellied pig at maturity is between 90 and 150 pounds.” Three other changes in the code: 1. Grazing animals and roosters are limited to Open Land and Government Use zoning categories 2. stables are removed as a permitted use in the commercial low intensity zoning category 3. fishing can be allowed in Maria Sanchez Lake as state law preempts prohibiting fishing of salt water fish. The public will be able to weigh in on the pig question and other animal code elements in two weeks.
History’s Highlight   Osceola – January 1838 January 31, 1838, sensing the inevitable, Osceola directed his followers to dress him in his best finery, and he lay back on the blanket strewn floor of his cell at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, and quietly expired. His remains are buried just outside the fort gate. Many Floridians to this day believe Osceola should be reinterred in this state where, as a patriot warrior defending his homeland, he joined the legendary ranks of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Geronimo. Osceola first appeared in 1832, sitting at Chief Micanopy's side at Payne's Landing as the United States continued negotiations, trying to move Florida's Indians west of the Mississippi. Osceola was about 35 years old and was immediately recognized by U.S. officers as a force to reckon with. The Indian agent, Wiley Thompson, called him "bold and dashing." Negotiations, skirmishes and frustration would continue on both sides, breaking into all-out war in 1835 - the Seminole Indian War, which would stretch to 1842 and become the most costly Indian conflict in United States history. Osceola's mind was clear. He would not be moved from his homeland. He made his point December 28, 1835, in a well-planned and spectacular pair of incidents which formally started the war. At points 40 miles apart, Seminole forces assassinated the Indian Agent Thompson outside Fort King at Ocala and massacred a relief force of 105 under U.S. Major Francis L. Dade, on its way to Fort King. Osceola continued skirmishes on a frustrated US military, fighting its first guerrilla-style war in the dense subtropics. October 21, 1837, a weary Osceola and Coa Hadjo, another principal leader of the Seminoles, camped at Fort Peyton southwest of St. Augustine under a flag of truce to meet with the U.S. commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jesup. They were unaware that General Jesup was no longer recognizing flags of truce. He was imprisoned in St. Augustine's Castillo (then called Fort Marion) until late November, then transferred to Fort Moultrie, away from potential influencing of his Seminole followers. There he was buried with full military honors in a grave outside the military base. On his marker, military authorities inscribed, "OCEOLA Patriot and Warrior." Image: Portrait of Osceola, painted by American Artist George Catlin at Fort Moultrie, January 1838.  Excerpt from Osceola, in St. Augustine Bedtime Stories. Click for further information on this fascinating historic series.
Experts and workshops planned on vacation rentals City commissioners want to hear from Tax Collector Dennis Hollingsworth and an Airbnb lobbyist, study some white papers on the subject and get community input as they move toward regulation of the surging vacation rental market. Mayor Nancy Shaver said Monday, “I’ve gotten dozens of emails on the hosting topic from Airbnb managers. I think it would be helpful to have some kind of broad discussion. We should make sure we hear from them.” Hosting is a requirement for owners or managers to be on site of vacation rentals. Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline and Planning and Zoning Director David Birchim both acknowledged receiving a letter from an Airbnb lobbyist “offering ideas regarding clients and registration systems.” Birchim Monday provided initial research on how other Florida cities are tackling the vacation rental surge. “During my research one of the things that stood out,” Birchim told commissioners, “the silence was deafening as cities passed all these ordinances.” Hollingsworth is tracking rental properties to assure they are not homestead exempted.
Commission denies red cedar appeal A tree will fall on Lighthouse Avenue, despite one neighbor’s efforts to save it in an appeal to the City Commission Monday. Chad Smith was not disputing a Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) decision to allow removal of 25 trees on private property at 61 Lighthouse Avenue but appealed  removal of that 21-inch diameter southern red cedar tree which stands in the city right of way. Both commissioners Roxanne Horvath, an architect, and John Valdes, a contractor, noted a slight shift in the driveway plan for the property could save the cedar, but commissioners acknowledged extensive (PZB) discussions with the property owners and could find no legal basis to overturn its decision.
Historian to report on 1964 Movement project Historian Scott Grant, who is developing a documentary on the events of the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement of 1964 - including the largest mass arrest of Rabbis in U.S. history - will be the guest speaker at the January 23 meeting of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 4:30 pm at the Main Branch of the St. Johns County Public Library. Grant holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a Law Degree from Rutgers University. He’ll describe his progress on his project and what has driven him to tell the much under-told story of the Rabbis who came to the First Coast in support of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Wendlers ordered to pay court costs in lengthy suit Scott and Donna Wendler have been ordered to pay $64,333.78 in court costs, “to put an end to the litigation” of a decade long lawsuit, City Attorney Isabelle Lopez told commissioners Monday. The city won the suit in which the Wendlers sued the city for failing to compensate them for lost income after denying demolition of eight properties to build a boutique hotel. The court ruled, however, the city could not recover attorneys’ fees.