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The goal is conserve land and help mitigate flooding. It’s the start of the city’s land acquisition program.
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — “It’s a huge triumph,” Dianya Markovits said Monday, referring to the the City of St. Augustine’s bold decision to purchase riverfront land, instead of seeing it developed.
She’s been concerned about the future of this land on Florida Avenue for a solid year.
Markovits lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood of St. Augustine, off Masters Drive.
A year ago, she and her neighbors told First Coast News they were concerned about a proposed apartment complex for a portion of waterfront property in their low-lying neighborhood.
The property is six acres along Florida Avenue and Julia Street. The land is on the San Sebastian River. However, only three acres are buildable. On that three acres, the developer planned to construct 12 buildings with 40 units along with a parking lot with 80 spots.
The chief concern by many residents: the older neighborhood has a tendency to flood.
“When we get heavy rains, it floods. Our streets flood,” Markovits said. “What acerbates that is when the San Sebastian also swells.”
She and her neighbors were concerned that if the land was developed, it would force any storm water or rising river levels even more into their neighborhood.
Last week, St. Augustine City Commissioners and the developer struck a deal. The city commission unanimously voted to buy the land to keep it undeveloped. The developer has agreed to the city’s appraised value — not his own — of $1.9 million.
Markovits was elated to hear about the land purchase. She told First Coast News, “To to keep that preserved and continue to have that permeable surface, trees, and wetlands that will absorb much of the water, means the crisis is somewhat averted. It wont’ stop it. We’re still going to flood, but it won’t be to the level we knew it was going to be if you paved on the wetlands.”
“it’s a win for conservation and resilience,” City Commissioner Barbara Blonder told First Coast News. She led the charge for the city to buy the land along the San Sebastian River.
This comes as she is also working toward creating a land acquisition program for the City of St. Augustine, a city wrangling with sea level rise.
Blonder said says saving undeveloped land makes sense.
“The more of the natural services we can maintain, the less of the money we have to spend to divert that flood water, treat stormwater, and build walls,” Blonder noted.
She said the land purchase could economically pay off, calling it an investment.
The property along Florida Avenue is now the second land purchase in the city’s land acquisition program toward conserving land. At 6+ acres, it’s also the largest purchase for conservation, according to Blonder.
She said the city’s first purchase was earlier this year. The city bought a half acres of undeveloped land on Seminole Road in the Fullerwood neighborhood.
Blonder said the next step with the land acquisition program will be a meeting in November. She said there will be a city workshop to consider staff recommended guidelines for property considerations.