The Voice of the Gem City

News May 16, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Palatka officials say they don’t know anything about signs that have gone up on city-owned property in the South Historic District indicating a multi-unit development is going on what is currently Hammock Hall. On Thursday night by a 4-1 vote Palatka City Commission decided to sell the community center in the South Historic District. They told city officials to have an appraisal done. On Saturday morning residents in the South Historic District found signs up on the property at the corner of Kirkland Kirby streets. The signs read: Community Progress As Promised Multi-Unit Development Equal Housing Opportunity U.S. Housing Act/The Integral Group. The Integral Group is a development company out of Atlanta. City Manager Don Holmes said today he knew nothing about the signs. “There is no deal with anybody,” he said, adding the signs would be coming down today. Whatever is going on — neighbors are up in arms. At Thursday’s meeting Holmes said the city that day had received an unsolicited offer on the property. John and Maureen Vanderwerf made the offer, Holmes said today. Commissioners decided to have an appraisal done. Some commissioners appeared shocked that a non-residential use — the community center — was in the district. The center was a business when the district was created and thus the use was grandfathered in. Later the Community Redevelopment Authority bought the property and it became a center for the residents of the area. When the North and South historic districts were created the idea was to help revitalize two longtime sections of Palatka that had fallen on hard times. Part of the problem in the older areas was many houses were being turned into apartments and rentals. Much of the area is zoned R-1 which is single family and meant to protect the homeowners and their investments. A multi-unit development isn’t allowed under current zoning.

An argument apparently over a haircut landed a Palatka woman in jail in Gainesville. Tiernee Simmons, 24, allegedly threatened another woman with a gun after getting a haircut from them. Simmons pulled a gun on the victim before a witness called 9-1-1. When Gainesville Police arrived at the scene Simmons had locked herself in an apartment in southeast Gainesville. After a stand-off for several hours she surrendered to police and is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

A murder-suicide Saturday in northwest St. Johns County left two men dead. St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office reported it was “an incident … between neighbors.” The shooting was in a townhome community at the Palisades at Durbin Crossing and occurred on Servia Drive off St. Johns Parkway. The two reportedly had argued in the past, according to a neighborhood chat site. One neighbor allegedly walked down to the other who was working on his car and shot him, then went back to his townhome and into the backyard where he shot himself. The Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit is investigating. 

Northeast Florida law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty were among those honored over the weekend. The names of several area deputies are now engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Among the officers: St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jody Hull, who died after battling COVID-19; Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Paul Luciano, who died from complications of COVID-19; Flagler Sheriff’s Deputy Francisco Celico, who died in 2011; and Bunnell Police Department Officer Dominic Guida, who suffered a cardiac event during a training event with the Flagler Sheriff’s Office and died.

Florida Highway Patrol worked a vehicle crash with injuries and roadblock this morning in East Palatka. Troopers were dispatched at 7:52 a.m. at Bland Road and Cannon Road. Details are pending.

Rip tides continued at St. Johns and Flagler County beaches over the weekend. Kristi Vickers went online to thank two unknown people who, she said, saved her daughter, grandson and her daughter’s fiancé from drowning in the rip currents. “Words can’t described how thankful I am. If you know who the two people were, please let me know,” she wrote on St. Augustine News, a public group.

You may have seen the tribute to Naomi Judd during a public memorial service Sunday. The country music star died April 30 by suicide. The service brought special memories for Palatka’s Martha Pace, who recalled interviewing Naomi and her daughters who were just starting out when they came to Palatka to perform at Moccasin Creek Bar & Grill, an event venue that once stood in front of the Publix shopping center off State Road 19. “I could tell they were wonderful the very first time I heard them,” Pace said, recalling writing the story for the Palatka Daily News. Martha, who is pretty wonderful herself, was the host of Martha, Music and More on WPLK for more than 15 years. Sunday was a pretty special day for her — she was celebrating her birthday.

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