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Trio of homeowners would like to pay their own money to move public boardwalk

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. — A battle over exactly what money can buy is coming to a head in St. Augustine Beach. A trio of homeowners in a private, gated neighborhood want to pay to move a public boardwalk. They want to fork over $600,000 of their own money to make sure it’s not so close to their fence line. Now, the community is coming out en masse to fight it.

The boardwalk is in Ocean Hammock Park, next to the gated Sea Colony. It’s a gated community of one million dollar plus homes and a beach club. For many of the homeowners that live there, the public access to that same beach is too close for comfort and want to move it.- much to the chagrin of locals like Ron Brown.

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He regularly enjoys the little nature trail and says he’s frustrated neighbors are trying to use money to gain influence. “How many people walk down through here versus how many people are complaining,” he asks, “it’s the money that’s talking.”

According to a letter the Homeowners Association of Sea Colony sent the St. Augustine Beach city commission, the walkway “represents a noise, traffic, and security concern to residents.”

Sea Colony also says its plan would augment the city’s future park design, which would include a new playground, pavilion and bathrooms. A central walkway “will be significantly improved in a more sensible fashion that delivers upon your original vision. The park will now have restrooms and a viewing platform, and a more natural walkway going down the center of the park, which is where, as you shared would have been located had you owned the entire parcel.”

In fact, the president of the HOA, Gregg Hamann said, “This is only an issue because the city is planning to expand the facilities so significantly.”

Sea Colony proposed map:

But their concerns are met with the concerns of opponents like Jim LeClare.

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“The first thing is,” LeClare says, “it’s just is not comparable solution…And then the second thing is, we don’t think it’s an environmentally friendly solution to demo a boardwalk…and as a result of tearing that down have to build a new boardwalk through the dunes,”

There are gopher tortoises, a threatened species in Florida, that live near the existing boardwalk and the proposed new path wouldn’t be fully raised, instead cutting a ground path through the nature conservation area. The public works department also says the project would likely cost $150 thousand dollars more than what the homeowners have offered up. That would leave the city of St. Augustine Beach to foot the bill for the difference.

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As a result more than three thousand people have signed a petition against the project.

Action News Jax did reach out to the homeowners offering to pay for the project. We talked to one of them who said he would call us back but never did. The commission will hear the issue at it meeting Jan. 9.

The full packet is available HERE starting on p. 39 of the PDF.

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