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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. 

Committee to Elect Melinda Rakoncay
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