ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The ongoing saga over the old Santa Maria Restaurant continued Monday when St. Augustine City commissioners revisited a family's plan to rebuild the property.
The site has gone untouched for years, largely because the two sides can't agree on the family's plan to add docks to the east side of the building. Soon, it will be known as The Warf and it will be remodeled. The commission voted 4-0 to accept the deed, and it now goes to planning and zoning.
The White family, owners of O.C. White's Seafood & Spirits and The White Room wedding venue, bought the Santa Maria property in 2015.
The Whites want to demolish the existing restaurant, which has been considered an eyesore since it has sat vacant, and construct a new restaurant.
The family's attorneys have requested a vested rights determination. Basically, the family wants to know what rules actually govern the property. Over the last 100 years, it has served as a home, an oyster house, a dock, a bar and a restaurant. The White family said the property predates the city's zoning code, making it exempt from many restrictions.
Mac McLeod, the attorney representing the White family, said the city commission is proceeding cautiously, but appropriately.
"We think if you look at the project and look at the final outcome that it's a total gain for the city of St Augustine," he said. "We're hoping to have things done within months."
The Santa Maria is the only over-water restaurant in St. Augustine, but nothing has moved forward because the city and family are hung up on the family's plans to install new docks outside.
The city said the docks would interfere with commercial traffic at the municipal marina next door.
The city and White family planned to meet at 5 p.m. Monday to try to figure out what can be done with the restaurant, so they can finally make plans to move forward with the property.