The Voice of the Gem City

News August 3, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Land issues are giving Palatka officials a fit. 

A request for a six-month extension to submit a plat plan for a residential project in Palatka Tuesday ran smack into a wall when it turned out the owners had missed by three months the extension deadline. During the Palatka Planning Board meeting officials explained in order for A&M Home Builders LLC to build on the northwest corner of Moseley Avenue and Edgemoor Street they’ll have to start the process all over again. Other problems with the project were discovered including that the property submitted as R-1A single family residential is apparently R-1AA which means fewer houses can go on the property based on zoning. That was fine with the audience, most of whom were from Palma Ceia Terrace next to the proposed 11 home development. The audience including former City Commissioner James Norwood said rezoning signs hadn’t been posted on Husson Avenue and they hadn’t known anything about the proposal until last week. Planning officials said the signs went up but theft was a frequent problem. Residents also are concerned because their neighborhood, built on a cul de sac, would become the only entry into the proposed development, greatly increasing traffic.

Palatka City Commission knows a thing or two about land problems. At a meeting last week city staff asked direction on what further action to take after no bids were received on Hammock Hall, a city-owned facility in the middle of the South Historic District. Commissoners instructed city officials to get a proper survey and look at how to better market the three lots and building, purchased with a grant and renovated for a neighborhood meeting facility. A formal change in zoning was discussed including the possibility of putting up multi-family residential in the single-family residential neighborhood of mostly older homes that have some of the highest price tags in town. They dismissed a possible bid for $120,000 by a company that wanted to put in a coffee shop and roast coffee on the site.

In St. Johns County today expect heavy traffic today on World Commerce Parkway as the 152,000-square-foot Costco Warehouse opens north of St. Augustine. It’s the first for St. Johns County and the 30th for Costco in Florida. The operation will employ 260 people and is part of a growing commercial presence in the area off International Golf Parkway.

The Public Defender’s Office in St. Johns County is sending out email surveys to registered voters asking questions about the Aiden Fucci case. Fucci was 14 when he allegedly stabbed classmate Tristyn Bailey to death in 2021. Voters are getting the surveys because that’s who makes up potential jury pools. Among questions are whether recipients have ever posted remarks about the case on social media and whether they’ve sought out info on the case. Some see the survey as an indication Fucci’s lawyer will seek a change of venue because of media coverage and too many people having made up their minds about the case.

Eleven people have been sentenced after being arrested last year  as part of a drug trafficking ring operating out of Crescent City. During a multi-agency operation drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine and heroine with a total street value of $1.5 million were seized. Twelve firearms and $33,000 in cash were also found. Officials said the drugs were smuggled into South Putnam County from Mexico. The 11 people, most of who were from south Putnam, were sentenced to a total of 100 years, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Gator DeLoach said work by local and federal agents had stopped pipeline for distribution of meth from Mexico. “Anyone who thinks the border crisis doesn’t affect Florida or our community is wrong and here is the proof.

Flagler County School District is looking at expanding Matanzas High School for the 2024-25 school year. The project including two new buildings, one a pre-engineered metal multi-purpose building for athletics, will cost $17.5 million. The other building is a two-story 20,000 square-foot building with a construction lab with classrooms on the bottom floor and a 21st-century media center and digital art lab on the second floor.

Putnam County School District is changing its meeting hours at least partially to give citizens a chance to attend the board. The other reason is to increase communication about a proposed revitalization plan that will require voters to approve a multi-million dollar bond issue. The new meeting time will be at 4:30 p.m. instead of the current 3:30 meeting time. The new time will be in place at least until November when the bond issue vote takes place and the annual board reorganization happens.

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