June 14 Roundtable
Bed Tax Increase - Not Yet
The Commission took up the first reading of the revised Tourist Development Tax (TDT) Ordinance which recommends a one cent increase, modifies the allowable uses of the tax and consolidates all beach expenditures into a new Category 5. The 1% increase in the TDT is estimated to generate $3 M in revenue in FY22.
The Commission spent most of its time discussing how the additional revenue should be allocated and focused primarily on Commissioner Dean’s modified plan: 60% or $1.8 M be allocated to beach renourishment; 20% or $600,000 for marketing; 20% or $600,000 for beach improvements including boat ramps.
Staff will revise the allocation amounts to reflect the Dean plan and the second reading of the ordinance and vote will be at the July 20 meeting. All new tax levies require a super majority or 4 of 5 votes.
Several speakers rose to protest the amount of money being spent on advertising. Other speakers spoke about the desperate need for beach renourishment.
The Roundtable supports this increase as a way to help pay for the increased services related to the number of increased visitors.
LAMP Program Reinstated
By a vote of 4-1, the Board of County Commissioners voted to reinstate the Land Acquisition and Management Program.
Commission Jeb Smith, who opposed LAMP, raised the issue of the County buying land. His comments were aimed at the lack of planning related to buying right of way and lead to a discussion among Commissioners about this situation. Administrator Conrad was directed to look into this issue.
County Commission Meeting Overview
At the Tuesday, June 15 Meeting:
The Board recognized July 2021 as Parks and Recreation Month and presented a proclamation to the county Parks & Recreation Department.
Two Constitutional Officers presented their tentative budgets to the Commission.
The County Property Appraiser, Eddie Creamer, presented his $5.6 M budget for the next fiscal year. In the last 5.6 years, values of commercial properties (includes apartments and rental properties) have increased 53% and residential values (60% are homesteaded) are up 45%.
Land parcels in the agriculture sector are declining. He indicated that property values have increased 30-40% this year over values just a year ago.
The Office has completed an audit of homestead properties and found 236 properties improperly claiming the exemption and a majority of claims have been recovered to date.
Commissioner Dean asked if it would he helpful to cross reference the new registration list of short term rentals when it is completed after November 1, 2021, and Mr. Creamer readily agreed.
County Sheriff Robert Hardwick presented his budget with some interesting statistics. The Office estimates the county has 6 million visitors a year and 10 million people annually use our beaches.
The Sheriff’s Office received 247,445 service calls last year (678 per day) of which 95,818 were 911 calls; 4,013 of these calls resulted in arrests. Major drug seized included 2043 g. of cocaine; 1629 g. of meth and 247 g. of fentanyl. Just last weekend there were 7-8 fatal overdoses. Although crime is down in St. Johns County, there are higher crime rates to our north in Duval and to our south in Volusia; I-95 is also a source of crime.
The Sheriff is asking for an increase in his budget and wants to increase the starting pay for Deputy Sheriffs from $43,000 to $45,000 per year and needs to stay competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, i.e., City of St. Augustine starting pay is $46,000.
The Oxford Estates East plan came back to the Commission for consideration to add 30 new single family homes on 32.5 acres on the eastern side of Longleaf Pine Parkway and north of Greenbriar Road. After a quasi-judicial hearing of both sides, the plan was narrowly adopted by a 3-2 vote.
Workforce Housing -- approved modifications to allow for an increase in the maximum sales price.
Family Farms - Approved modifications to allow terminations of family farm agreements after 7 years and reduces the minimum lot size in part of the program.
St. Johns County Water Supply Facilities Work Plan was adopted.
FEMA Beach Berm Contract was adopted with modifications offered by Commissioner Dean to include Summer House condos and to use the Mickler parking lot except on Saturdays and Sundays.
The County has received over 50% of easements from residents along Ponte Vedra beaches and Summer House in Crescent Beach for beach renourishment.
Beach access for heavy duty construction trucks at Summer House will require National Park Service approval to use the Matanzas Inlet ramp.
Beach access for Ponte Vedra 2 will require about half the space at Mickler Beach parking lot as well as two other access points along Ponte Vedra Blvd.
The motion to finalize the agreement with Continental Heavy Civil Corp. for design and construction of berm restoration projects was adopted by a 5-0 vote.
Cost share is FEMA grant of $27,056,876, State of Florida grant of $2,933,846, and $4,375,846 from the appropriate County Fund Reserves. In addition, the contractor agrees to pay for the damages and repairs to Mickler Beach parking lot.
Commission Smith reports that some farmers have potato harvests completed and the remainder need to get potatoes off soon. Corn crops are looking good and sod is moving steadily. The recent rains have helped farmers considerably. Mr. Smith wished everyone a happy July 4th and reminds us of the importance of Independence to our country.
Commissioner Waldron reported on the first Kingfish Tournament this past weekend had 520 boats of which 480 were from out of town. He would like to get a cost estimate from staff for a rock road at Summer Haven. He also indicated that the Board needs to have more discussions on how the County handles impact fees.
Commissioner Whitehurst would like to have another meeting on use of the Mickler Beach lot for berm construction. He will be celebrating Fathers Day and Juneteenth for the importance of emancipation of slaves to our country.
Commissioner Blocker reports that some Palm Valley residents want a no-wake zone on the Intracoastal and Commission could make a recommendation to the FWC in Tallahassee. He asked the attorney’s office to prepare a white paper for Commissioners on the County’s storm water assessment ordinances.
He recommended the Lincolnville Museum for everyone to visit for its historical presentations and can’t wait to take his children there. Mr. Blocker wished the U.S. Army a happy birthday on June 14th. He asked the County Administrator about the new Communications Plan and Mr. Conrad introduced the new Director of Public Affairs who was approved by 5-0 vote.
The County Attorney is coordinating with Growth Management and OMB on how HB 337 limiting impact fees can be implemented and the issue may require a workshop later on. The Board needs to determine the amount of non-agenda initiatives requiring funding for future Board actions.
200 Anniversary of St. Johns County
Celebrating 200 Years of Excellence
History: On July 10, 1821, the Spanish government transferred East Florida and its capital St. Augustine to the United States. There were three towns in the U.S. Florida Territory – Pensacola, Fernandina, and St. Augustine. It would be another 24 years before Florida would be admitted to the Union on March 3, 1845.
On July 21, St. Johns County will be celebrating its 200th anniversary of its founding as a County. On this date in 1821, President Andrew Jackson established Escambia and St. Johns Counties in the areas known as West and East Florida. St. Johns County encompassed all areas east of the Suwanee River. St. Johns County is home to the City of St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied, European settlement in the continental United States.
Event: Act of Transfer and Change of Flags Ceremony July 10
The Historic Florida Militia will present the Act of Transfer and Change of Flags Ceremony at 11 a.m. on July 10. The ceremony will begin with the Act of Transfer, a recreation of the signing of the official document declaring the end of Spanish rule in East Florida at the Government House, 48 King St.
The Historic Florida Militia will then march to the Florida Army National Guard Parade Grounds, 82 Marine St., and provide a historic interpretation of the changing of the flags and the exchange of the Florida territory from Spain to the United States.
Both events are free to the public in partnership with St. Johns County, the City of St. Augustine, the University of Florida, and the Florida Army National Guard.
For more information on the 200 Anniversary Celebration and all the events, click www.sjc200.org
Save the Date
Monday, August 9
HOA Board of Directors "School"
The next Roundtable meeting will be held on Monday, July 12, via Zoom. Ms. Isabelle Renault, the CEO of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce will be our featured speaker. She will be talking about the health of our business community, economic development and the future direction of economic growth in our county.
Jim McLane, Chairman
Lisa McGlynn, Vice Chairman and Treasurer
Maureen Long, Secretary