City seals changes to St. Augustine artists rules

St. Augustine commissioners unanimously adopted six ordinances on Monday night that expand freedoms for artists.

 

The ordinances, which go into effect this month, are part of the city’s efforts to settle a lawsuit that four artists filed against the city over rules that limit the sale of art in public spaces.

The ordinances:

• Provide a definition for expressive speech and define street artists as people who engage in expressive speech.

• Reserve spaces in the Plaza de la Constitucion market just for street artists via a monthly lottery. Street artists will be able to create and sell art in those spaces, but certain items such as food will not be allowed to be sold.

• Create a dozen new spaces next to the city’s parking garage that will be just for street artists.

• Exempt street artists from abiding by the city’s mobile vending ordinance, and hours of operation under the ordinance will be extended.

• Reduce several fees, such as the cost to get a spot in the Plaza, and open the door for fee waivers for financial hardship.

• Repeal regulations and permitting for peddlers and regulations for the West Plaza, which is under state control.

“I think we all look forward to livelier streets and … fewer ordinances,” Mayor Nancy Shaver said after the votes.

Other regulations, like prohibitions against painting and otherwise performing on north St. George Street and other areas, are still in force.

In other business

Commissioners supported increasing solid waste fees for residential customers. Vice Mayor Todd Neville voted against the resolution, saying not enough detail and justification had been provided.

“We’ve asked for cost-savings measures, and it’s always fee, fee, fee, fee, fee,” Neville said.

As of Nov. 1, the residential solid waste rate will increase by 83 cents a month, according to the resolution. Fee increases include home occupational rates. Also the residential dumpster cost for bulky yard trash or construction/demolition debris will increase by $8 a month.

New rates will help replenish reserves that were depleted during Hurricane Matthew, according to a memo from City Public Works Director Martha Graham.

• Commissioners, except for Neville, also approved increasing franchise fees as of Nov. 1 for trolley companies in the city from 3.5 to 4 percent of gross revenues, with a minimum of $10,000 to be paid by both companies to the city in a year.

Kim Kiff, regional manager for Ripley Entertainment, had asked Monday via email for the city to reconsider the increase, citing a more than $500,000 hit to the business in the past year related to the hurricanes.

• Not including outside help, the city has collected 350 tons of debris related to Hurricane Irma, and the job is expected to wrap up this weekend, Graham said.

• The city has received grants from the Florida Inland Navigation District. Combined with funds from the St. Augustine Port, Waterway & Beach District, several hundred thousand dollars will go toward dredging Salt Run, building a kayak launch in Lincolnville and purchasing a police boat, said Jim Piggott, the city’s general services director.

• Meredith Breidenstein, city budget director, said that the city hasn’t received any money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Hurricane Matthew. It’s not clear when that money will come through, though the city is closer to getting funding for several projects.

 

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