St. Augustine officials push top priorities in Tallahassee

Since the Florida Legislature began its session, the city of St. Augustine has been watching.


St. Augustine officials are pushing for infrastructure funding as well as tracking about 40 bills to see what might become law and impact life locally, including bills threatening community redevelopment agencies.

The session kicked off on March 7, and St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver and City Manager John Regan went to Tallahassee on Tuesday to make pitches for projects that would benefit Davis Shores, West Augustine and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

“Those are top priorities for this season,” Shaver said over the phone from Tallahassee, as she and Regan waited for another meeting. “We’re going to work it as hard as we can possibly work it.”

The city is asking for $510,750 from the state to retrofit stormwater outfalls in Davis Shores with 17 “backflow prevention valves,” according to a city document. The city says that would get rid of tidal flooding that can cause sewer overflows. The rest of the funds – $170,250 – would come from local government. Tidal flooding happens about 12-16 times a year, and the project, if funded, is estimated to be finished in May 2018.

“We had been experiencing nuisance flooding in the neighborhood for years,” said Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, who has lived in Davis Shores. “It has increased. There’s a fix. Staff has identified it and is ready to build.”

The city is also asking the state for $679,500 to help build a ­sanitary sewer system along West 5th Street from South Volusia Street to South Nassau Street, which would improve water quality by getting rid of 28 septic tanks. The project would also allow workforce housing to be built on 26 parcels, according to the city. The rest of the cost, which is the same amount, would be paid by local government funding.

At the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and nearby areas, the city wants to help prevent tidal flooding on public streets by making changes such as elevating a sewage pump station and adding valves to prevent backups of stormwater. The cost would be $487,550 local.

The city is also tracking bills filed that could affect local regulations and organizations, including legislation focused on community redevelopment agencies.

CRAs use property tax revenue to make improvements in a certain area as allowed by state law. The city’s has two CRAs: the Historic Area Transportation and Parking Community Redevelopment Area, established to deal with “parking and traffic blight” downtown; and the Lincolnville Community Redevelopment Area, which is focused in part on improving the neighborhood’s infrastructure and housing.

A house bill would, among other requirements, prohibit new CRAs and phase out existing CRAs by Sept. 30, 2037, unless a CRA has outstanding debt.

“That’s obviously something that we don’t think is a wise idea,” Shaver said.

SOME OF THE BILLS the city is tracking

n House bills 3127, 3243 and 3451 would fund a flooding prevention project in Davis Shores, utility upgrades at or near the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and extension of sewer service in West Augustine.

n House bill 13 would prohibit the creation of new community redevelopment agencies and phase out existing CRAs, among other provisions.

n House bill 1309 and Senate bill 940 would require “local governments to address protection of property rights in their comprehensive plans.”

n House bill 0017 would prohibit “certain local governments from imposing or adopting certain regulations on businesses, professions [and] occupations after [a] certain date.”

n House bill 6003 and Senate bill 1516 would allow “local laws, ordinances, [and] regulations to prohibit vacation rentals or regulate [the] duration [and] frequency of vacation rentals.”

n House bill 425 and Senate bill 188 would require local governments not “restrict the use of, prohibit, or regulate vacation rentals based solely on their classification, use or occupancy.”

n House bill 221 and Senate bill 340 would bring “a regulatory framework” for transportation network companies (like Uber) and put regulation only in the hands of the state.

n House bill 1027 and Senate bill 832 would keep local governments from creating rules on drones.

n Senate bill 0306 would prohibit public officers from voting on issues “that would inure to any gain or loss, rather than a special private gain or loss, of the officer, or a principal, relative or business associate of the officer.”

Source: A document provided by Denise May, assistant city attorney in St. Augustine.

Full list of bills that St. Augustine is tracking