Palatka Commission Debates Historical Building Demolition

In a recent Palatka City Commission meeting, the most pressing topic was the appeal regarding the demolition of a historic building owned by St. Mark’s Church. The church had requested the City Commission to overturn the Historic Preservation Board’s previous decision denying the demolition of the old rectory building. The church intended to replace the structure with a community park and prayer labyrinth, arguing that the building, which has not been used for 20 years, presented a safety risk and a financial burden due to its deteriorating condition. The building in question, built in 1865, holds significant historical and architectural value, being a recognized landmark in the district.

The debate was multifaceted, involving the building’s historical significance, the financial implications of maintenance versus demolition, and the potential impact on the neighborhood and the city’s historic character. Presentations by the appellant’s representatives included cost estimates for demolition, structural repair, and relocation, while arguing that demolition would be the least restrictive means of addressing the property’s condition. In contrast, the city’s presentation emphasized the economic, architectural, and legal importance of historic preservation.

Witnesses were sworn in, and extensive evidence was presented, including video and still images, documentation, and reports on the building’s condition. The appellant’s attorney argued that the financial burden of salvaging or rebuilding the church building was substantial, citing specific costs and challenges related to accessibility and code compliance. The discussion also touched on federal laws protecting religious exercise in land use, adding legal complexity to the case. The commission was faced with the decision to affirm the Historic Preservation Board’s decision, overturn it, or remand the matter back to the board for reconsideration with specific guidance.

In addition to the historic building appeal, the commission addressed several other major resolutions and projects. A discussion took place regarding a Florida Department of Environmental Protection Grant agreement for potable water mainline replacement, valued at 7 million dollars. The project, which will affect the Northeast, Northwest, and a section near the Wilson Cypress Mills site, raised questions about prioritization, the overlap with other projects, and the allocation of American Rescue Plan Act and Better Place grants funds. Public comments called for clarity on the modified details, especially concerning the Wilson Cypress area’s floodplain status.

Furthermore, a resolution was approved for the authorization of a public and improvement revenue note series to finance the acquisition and construction of a new Public Works building. The 3 million dollar loan, with an interest rate of 5.08% and a 20-year term, encompasses architectural costs, building purchase, surveying, and renovations. It was confirmed that the loan would be repaid from non-ad valorem revenues.

Another approved resolution involved a 4.5 million dollar grant for the replacement and repair of sanitary sewer mains and manholes citywide, with work in specific areas being prioritized. Additional resolutions, 2024 R52 and R53, were related to sanitary sewer and manhole lining, facilitating expedited citywide repairs.

The commission also discussed the installation of lighting improvements and exercise equipment at Hank Ryan Park, including safety and accessibility concerns. A bid for a single occupancy restroom at the park was received, at an estimated cost of approximately $39,500. Moreover, a decision was made to remove certain sidewalk segments from a grant scope due to their proximity to a fuel storage facility, prompting concerns about alternative funding for the sidewalk removal.

Other topics included discussions on bids for re-roofing the police department roof, with the commission opting for re-roofing due to its longevity and cost-effectiveness. A request to disconnect a GPS system from a city vehicle was also raised, leading to a debate on authorization and city policy adherence. The commission agreed to revisit the discussion in a future meeting.

Finally, two final plat applications for subdivision developments were approved, with one on Kelly Smith School Road and another on Ivy Street, both meeting development standards after staff and planning board review. However, there was confusion about whether a Swale had been included in the documentation for the latter, leading to the item being tabled for further investigation.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Robbi Correa
City Council Officials:
Tammie McCaskill, Justin Campbell, Will Jones, Rufus Borom, City Manager (City Manager)

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