ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The city of St. Augustine is moving forward with a $500,000 land purchase in South Davis Shores that the city manager says will help mitigate nuisance flooding and double as a neighborhood park.
The St. Augustine City Commission unanimously approved the purchase last month, but as News4Jax has learned, Mayor Nancy Shaver now says she made a mistake by voting in favor of it.
South Davis Shores is an area in St. Augustine that’s prone to flooding. Wednesday morning, part of the neighborhood was underwater during high tide. It drained out into the afternoon. According to the city, the land purchase would help that issue.
Two properties along Coquina Avenue are up for sale for the cost of about $500,000. If the city buys the land, that money will come from reserve funds.
"Our job is to deliver services to our citizens at the lowest possible cost," the St. Augustine mayor said. "This does not seem to me to meet that bar. And it’s hard, it’s hard to say you messed up."
Shaver originally voted for the project, but stepped back after hearing from concerned residents. One resident, Lee Geanuleas, said his concern is the City Commission wasn't given all the information it really needed for that vote.
"You need the best information available so you can do the trade-offs between other city priorities. The city has code enforcement shortfalls. It has a street paving challenges," Geanuleas said. "Ultimately, the city commission can make whatever decision it thinks is best, but I would want them to have accurate information."
When News4Jax asked Shaver when she first felt a sense of hesitation, she said that it was during the first presentation.
"When I heard we don’t have legal access and we have to put a check valve in and I knew those projects have been completed, it made me feel slightly uncomfortable," Shaver said. "And then it obviously made other people uncomfortable because people brought information to me."
Commissioner John Valdes told News4Jax by phone that he wants the land purchase to move forward and thinks the mayor is jumping to conclusions too early.
City Manager John Regan explained the city is still in its due diligence period.
"Right now, the different pieces are coming in. We have our appraisal. We just received our survey. The property is a little bit bigger than we thought, which is good. The other pieces are all coming together," Regan said. "It takes 30 days to gather information and we are in that step and anyone that makes any judgments should wait for the due diligence."
Regan said findings will be presented at Monday's meeting.