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Tuesday, July 19, 2022 5:46 PM

More THOUGHTS on the Broudy Project

While many of the questions posed in my previous editorial on the Broudy Project still have not been answered, more questions arise, and there are more uncertainties as to what will actually be included in the Broudy Project.   

Since my first editorial, both the MOD ordinances and the Broudy project continue to be linked together at public meetings, despite questions by others as well as myself, as to why is an ordinance being created especially for Barry Broudy. Most recently they were linked together on the July 11 First Reading of all four ordinances, where they were quickly passed with very little discussion.  

It doesn’t seem that many people involved have really closely read the actual MOD (Mobility Oriented Development) ordinances, but are only hearing what they want to hear, and are depending on “trust” that everything will turn out to be what they want to see.  

Most people do NOT understand that a REGULAR ZONING category, which an MOD will be, leaves everything up to what the developer deems most profitable.

ONLY a PUD (Planned Unit Development) locks in the plans.  

Broudy’s  visions hard to nail down, because everything is just CONCEPT drawings, and as long as he refuses to consider a PUD, then there are no guarantees as to what will be built there.  As long as the Broudy Project is simply a VISION, none of us know WHAT is planned. It is simply described as “Reimagining West King”…something that we ALL want to see happen.

Until there are solid plans, NOTHING can be questioned, which is to the advantage of ANY developer, be they local or from the outside.  

Instead, Broudy can get everyone focus on giving him a MOD zoning category that will give him the maximum return on his land. This is simply good business. 

So it is up to the citizens of St. Augustine to QUESTION not only what is in the MOD, but what will the “Broudy  Project” actually be.  My next article will be a LIST of questions to ask your City Commissioner BEFORE Second Reading.


Saturday, June 11, 2022 9:00 PM

Melinda Rakoncay Editorial:

The Procedural Process of the Broudy Project

As someone  involved in Mobility efforts for the past six years, I have been aware of the desire to develop the Broudy property. The idea was to provide a periphery garage with a shuttle along with a retail & residential complex and possibly a future commuter rail station. 

I want to make it clear that I have been in favor of this project as important to St. Augustine’s future. I agree that it would  boost the West King Street business district and West City.

However, the PROCESS behind creating a new MOD (Mobility Oriented Development) land use category and MOD zoning district to SUIT THIS PROJECT needs to be seriously QUESTIONED & SLOWED DOWN BEFORE we go further with it.  

  • We are talking about more than DOUBLING our 35-foot height limit. St. Augustine has long had this height limit on its buildings to preserve our iconic skyline and keep our colonial and Victorian scale, which are so crucial to the historical authenticity of our town.  
  • Density-wise, MOD would more than TRIPLE our normal density allowance of 16 units per acre to 50 units per acre.  

Increasing building heights to 75 feet and density to 50 units per acre will have long-term ramifications on St Augustine’s future development. One must remember that unlike a PUD (Planned Unit Development) where there is design control of the project, zoning districts have no design restrictions other than density and height. 

On June 7th, the Broudy Project asked the PZB to recommend Comp Plan and Zoning changes from their current land use and zoning to a MOD land use category and MOD zoning district BEFORE those 2 categories were legally adopted as ordinances. 

The process looked to the public in attendance as if it was a “deal already done behind the scenes with no public input.”  

The new MOD categories were obviously designed to suit the Broudy project needs.

This is backwards.   Projects always should be designed to fit the zoning district it falls within.  This means the zoning and land use categories must be vetted and passed into ordinances first before an applicant applies for them.  

QUESTIONS that need to be ASKED and ANSWERED:

  1. WHY was the Brody Project brought before the PZB asking to amend their property on our Comp Plan and in our zoning code to MOD categories, which legally don’t exist yet?
  2. Shouldn’t the City Commission and the public decide if a MOD ordinance is needed FIRST?
  3. IF it is determined that a MOD category is needed, then WHAT are the appropriate height and density limits?
  4. What long-term effects on the City would those height, and density changes have?
  5. Would a PUD ( Planned Unit Development ) make more sense for the Broudy Project instead of a new MOD category?
  6. Could we design a Future Land Use category that would allow some increased height and density for such a PUD ? IF so…then what should the height and density limitations be? 
  7. How much higher than the long-established 35-foot height limit does St. Augustine want ? Would a 50 foot height be more in keeping with the rest of the city?
  8. What kind of impact would 50 units per acre have on an area?  
  9. Should the residential parking requirement be lower, since residents will be expected to use the transportation hub instead of a car?  
  10. Should the parking requirements of the retail space be combined with the public parking for the cIty, which is one of the main reasons the city is going in on partnership with this project? 
  11. How do we ensure that the impressive architectural designs for the project are actually built?

I want to remind people that we are possibly going into another recession with interest rates and building costs that will impact future development. Remember, the San Sebastián Inland Harbor project was never built because of a recession. At least the San Sebastián project was protected by the terms of a PUD. Broudy may end up having to sell or go into partnership with an outside developer, who has no affinity for St Augustine, and the plans being shown to dazzle the City and public may never get built. If these plans are NOT locked in by the terms of a PUD,  the new developer has the freedom to build ANYTHING that is 75 feet in height and 50 units per acre. The result could be an eyesore and a traffic mess.

It is VERY POSSIBLE that the Broudy Project can still be successfully done on a scale that doesn’t require such a drastic change in our heights and density.

I am not trying to kill the Broudy Project.  

IF DONE RIGHT, the Broudy project could be a real ASSET to St. Augustine. 

We just need to proceed in a manner that does NOT create an OVERSIZED PROJECT or OPEN the DOOR to other developers wanting their height limits and densities increased.

Those who agree need to contact the City Commissioners with the above concerns. 


Saturday, June 11, 2022 6:04 PM

Melinda Rakoncay attends the St Augustine Business Coalition’s Candidate Event

On Thursday, June 9, the St. Augustine Business Coalition’s Leadership Group, hosted           “Get to Know You” City Commission candidate event at the Renaissance Hotel on Castillo Drive from  5 - 7 pm. 

It was a nice way to meet the other candidates running for City Commission, but more importantly I enjoyed getting questions from the business community and hearing some of their concerns.  The vagrancy problem was a top issue, along with belief that many business owners do not feel their concerns are heard.  

But I see their concerns as important, because St. Augustine as like a 3 legged stool, in which the needs of the local businesses, resident, and visitor must all considered equally if we are going to have a balanced approach to solving our problems. 

The St Augustine Business Coalition (SABC) was specifically formed to advocate for the downtown and Entry Corridor business community’s interests.  They meet monthly and plan to host another City Commission candidate event open to their entire database of about 450 business people after the primaries.  I look forward to meeting with them again.  


Sunday, June 5, 2022 4:43 PM

Melinda Rakoncay, your “Top Gun” For City Commissioner

Many are having fun going to see Top Gun Maverick at the movies for the fighter jet experience.  

While no Tom Cruise, Melinda Rakoncay took the opportunity to fly in a Czech made L-39 fighter jet while out in California back in 2009.  She went up with a friend, who was in another fighter jet for a “dogfight” experience.  Needless to say, an experienced pilot flew the jet in the rear seat, while she flew in the front seat.  They did lots of loops, rolls, and dives for an experience of a lifetime.  She says she would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Melinda has that same fearless attitude to take on City problems that many would prefer to   just sit out.  As your City Commissioner, she will continue that same “can do” spirit that has kept her fighting for St. Augustine for the last 42 years.  

 


Monday, May 30, 2022 4:18 PM

Melinda Rakoncay attends Memorial Day Services

Commemorating Service & Sacrifice 

To honor those who have died in service to our country, Melinda Rakoncay attended the Memorial Day Services at St. Augustine’s National Cemetery this morning.  A nice breeze came in off the bay to cool the audience and keep the American flag at half staff waving beautifully in the wind.  It was the first time we were able to have this moving service at the National Cemetery since Covid had shut it down in 2020 & 2021.  

The service started promptly at 10am with a bagpipe & drum band playing all the armed service songs for each military branch beforehand.  Sargent Major David Lanham was the guest speaker, who gave some history of Memorial Day, as well as honoring not only the dead that lay in our historic cemetery, but all those that died while serving in the military.  

As done every year, the names of those St. Augustine veterans who died in the past year were read aloud according to the military branch they served in with a bell being rung. A three gun salute was given.  The Memorial Wreath was laid by Commander Deborah Geanuleas at the end of the service.  

As we enjoy Memorial Day weekend, which officially kicks off summer, let all of us take a bit of time to reflect on those who gave their lives so that we have the freedoms we take for granted in our daily lives. 

Photos from event in my Photo Gallery 

 

 


Monday, May 9, 2022 6:18 PM

Melinda Rakoncay speaks before the City Commission.

Melinda Rakoncay spoke before the City Commission at the May 9 meeting in support of  Resolution 2022-13, which authorizes the City Manager to execute the road jurisdiction transfer and construction reimbursement agreements related to King Street, Cathedral Place and Cordova Street. 

After much study on the matter and being involved in public workshops, as well as reading the Resolution and checking with staff that I understood everything in it, I made the decision to speak in support of Resolution 2022-13.  Here are my comments: 

"City ownership of King Street has been considered for as long as I can remember.  It’s a responsibility that in the past the City has been hesitant to take.  But with a long range Mobility Element part of our Comprehensive Plan…NOW is the right time.  

 I want to commend THIS City Commission for authorizing City Staff  to enter into negotiations with FDOT for ownership of this important corridor that runs through our historic core.  I commend City Staff for holding firm in these negotiations to make sure that the terms were still favorable to the City.  It is my understanding that City Staff has taken long term maintenance costs into consideration.  

The biggest advantage is that City ownership takes us off of FDOT schedules, which in the past has rushed design decisions through without the time for adequate public comment.  I would NOT support this Resolution if I didn’t feel it would give the residents & local business more INPUT.  

Since being the City’s Mobility Liaison, I’ve been the ears to the ground, taking local concerns back to Reuben Franklin. Together we conducted well attended meetings on this issue and most agreed that City ownership was the way to go forward. 

I want to make CLEAR to the public, that tonight’s resolution does NOT lock in ANY concepts or proposals for the future design and use of King & Cathedral Streets.  Instead it is only the BEGINNING…There are MANY exciting possibilities…even making no changes at all or making changes gradual, if that is determined to be the best solution.  

Ownership buys us TIME to study various designs, GET IT RIGHT, and make sure that LOCAL CONSENSUS is built.  

Regardless of my role in the City, I will continue to push for public involvement in the final design of this vital corridor that cuts through the heart of St Augustine. "

 

 

 

 


Committee to Elect Melinda Rakoncay
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