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Eminent Domain

So what's going on with the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind wanting, and apparently getting, eminent domain privileges?

They say they have no plans to use it but Proctor seems to be pushing very hard and very quickly for them to have it.  One of the "reasons" seems to be that FSDB is the only State school that doesn't have it.  So what?

I think if I owned property in that area, I'd be nervous.

They say they have no plans to use it

there's an old saying in the movie industry.
if there's a gun mounted on the'll get used before the closing credits.
you know there's a reason phred, i know there's a reason, pretty much everyone who's been following this knows that there's a reason.

"pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

The story of the 130 year old history between the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB) and its neighbors - and the last half century of conflict between them - could fill at least 5 years of a TV series, and include many (both vilified and praised) characters larger than life, whose words and actions epitomized the larger battles throughout the U.S. -- St. Augustine surnames which still precipitate positive and/or negative reactions among oldtimers in town - and whose descendants remain in the community - Barnes, Davis, Lightsey,  Manucy, Mathis, Pope, Shelly, Stuart, Vaille, Watson, Wiles, Wolfe.

But I'll spare you that saga, and stick to the Law, and some history, emphasis mine.

2011 Florida Statutes > Title XLVIII > Chapter 1013 > Section 24 1013.24 - 2003 - Right of eminent domain. 2014

There is conferred upon the district school boards in the state the authority and right to take private property for any public school purpose or use when, in the opinion of the school board, such property is needed in the operation of any or all of the public schools within the district, including property needed for any school purpose or use in any school district or districts within the county. The absolute fee simple title to all property so taken and acquired shall vest in the district school board, unless the school board seeks to appropriate a particular right or estate in such property.
History. 2014. 818, ch. 2002-387.
----- end Fl. Statute -----

Since its establishment in 1883 FSDB has been governed from Tallahassee, not by the St. Johns County District School Board -- and as District School Boards and their education policies and practices were changed through the years by federal legislation and policies, the FSDB went its own way under its state established Board of Trustees.  

One of the overlooked aspects through the years was to include it under the Florida Statute re eminent domain.

In 1881, Hamilton Disston and representatives of the Internal Improvement Fund (IIF) negotiated a deal that would allow Disston to drain wetlands in South Florida in exchange for half of the reclaimed land and first purchase choice on other state-owned land in Florida - he ended up with four million acres at 25¢ an acre, and the State of Florida had $1,000,000 for its educatlonal fund.

Florida now had waterways for steamboat traffic, and in 1885 Henry Flagler completed his railroad from New York City to St. Augustine; and then on to Miami - and the Florida boom was on, especially tourism and commercial development.

In Florida's 1838 Territorial Constitution (after Spain had ceded Florida to the U.S.) it was written that any land given to the Territory for schools would remain dedicated for education forever, AND that the General Assembly (later State Legislature), would be responsible for preserving public education.

In the 1868 Radical Reconstruction Constitution following the Civil War, the Common School Fund formalized state tax procedures dedicated to education, setting up governing bodies (later named District School Boards); "It is the paramount duty ofthe State to make ample provision for the education of all the children residing within its borders, without distinction or

In the 1880 census 78 deaf children of school age were identified in Florida, and plans began to be formulated for a state-run boarding school to accomodate them with education, as the public and private schools across the state didn't - most generally the deaf kids stayed home. Advocates for the blind became involved and by 1883 the Florida School for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind was begun in three newly constructed buildings ($13,000+) on the five donated acres.  

Those 3 buildings were the ONLY structures, except for a sawmill, in the agricultural and timber lands in the Lacey Tract north of the City of St. Augustine - and no private residences were built in the Tract for 30 years - in 1913, when it was subdivided into lots, which over the years have become identified as the Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood Park areas of North City.  

Then, as racism and bigotry again raised their ugly heads to institute legal segregation, in the rewritten 1885 Florida Constitution it was added to the educational mandate and new tax laws; "White and colored children shall not be taught in the same school, but impartial provision shall be made for both."  (But enforcement of that segregation of so-called "separate but equal" education didn't begin across Florida for 10 years; the 1895 Sheats Law.)

By the 1888/89 school year there were 25 boarding students - 13 white, 12 black - in attendance at FSDB, drawn from the 83 blind and the 87 deaf kids ages 4 through 21 identified in Florida.  

And through all the years of "de jure" and "de facto" segregation in Florida communities and other Florida schools, FSDB has been a "de jure" segregated, but "de facto" integrated residential boarding school campus.  

As an isolated community in the woods, separated from residential areas in St. Augustine by orange groves, swamps, crop-growing fields, and a sawmill, the "mixing" of the races (a/k/a "mongrelization" and miscegenation" by the haters) was largely ignored by the greater St. Augustine white and black communities - and there weren't any residential neighbors.

A few homes were built in the Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood Park between 1913 and the Great Depression, but most were built post-WWII, and gradually bordered all the FSDB - which remained primarily a Florida state-run boarding school, "de-facto" integrated, which as racist and racial tensions erupted in the '50s and '60s in St. Augustine began the first stage of the FSDB and neighbors' conflicts.  

FSDB was run from Tallahassee, in non-conformance with local zoning and building codes as St. Augustine began to regulate their historical areas, AND the students were mixed racially!  The principle arguers - on both sides of those fences - are only recently dying off, with some descendents holding on to the emnities, and others not.  

Meanwhile new people moved into the neighborhood, which led into the second stage of conflict. The older residents had resolved their segregationist ideas, or moved away, and FSDB students and police kept the peace in the neighborhood.

But some of the new neighborhood residents began to take their complaints to the City Commissioners, as the rest of the City came under new rules - tree ordinances, noise ordinances, non-related resident restrictions et al - as simultaneously FSDB began to demolish and re-build structures and roadways on their own authority!  This second stage of conflict has been going on for years - heating up when some of the good ole boys (and their dated prejudices) got elected as City Commissioners, and cooling off as they were replaced.

The third, and on-going, stage of conflict began a few years ago when both Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood Park residents began their push to be listed as National Register historic areas by the National Park Service - which efforts were accomplished by Fullerwood in 2010 and Nelmar in 2011.

NOW that they own National Register structures - with their own tax benefits and exemptions from some local, state, and federal Codes - the thought that FSDB might someday use eminent domain takes on a different meaning and importance.

This latest brouhaha erupted over an alley and a fence - with neighbors insisting that City Codes be followed, and FSDB ignoring them.

City passes FSDB eminent domain compromise - FSDB board to consider it Thursday

February 27, 2012
© 2012 St. Augustine Record.
Contact writer:

Grateful St. Augustine residents on Monday night warmly praised and thanked the City Commission for passing a proposed compromise that will keep two historic neighborhoods permanently exempt from eminent domain power that's been sought by the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

The rest of the city, though, will be protected from eminent domain for 10 years, not forever. That cooled some of the euphoria in the room.

Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman said, "If we thought we could get (the city protected for) 20 years or permanently, we would. I'm disappointed. The school hasn't given us what we needed."

The motion to send the agreement on to FSDB's Board of Trustees - which has already called an emergency meeting for Thursday to consider the language - came from Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline. She later amended her motion to send two agreements: One would be the agreement exempting the city for 10 years, while the other has a phrase changed to read "permanently"¯ rather than "10 years."

City Attorney Ron Brown was instructed to ask school trustees for the substitution.

Residents still fear an eminent domain bill working its way through the Florida Legislature, though it is being held up temporarily by state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. But whether that bill passes or fails, the school and city still have a signed agreement that will remain binding, Brown said.The language in the current agreement came after a meeting in Tallahassee last week by Thrasher, Mayor Joe Boles, City Manager John Regan, state Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, and FSDB President Danny Hutto.

The provisions include a detailed outline of what is allowed on the Genoply Block, green space now somewhat useless to FSDB due to the city's rejection of the property's rezoning. Terms include:

• Genoply can have a maximum of eight lots zoned single-family with the number of students not to exceed 64.

• Buildings there must mimic the architectural guidelines set by the city for single-family homes.

• They must all be one story and not higher than 35 feet.

• If not developed, the property can be used for recreation, though no outdoor lighted fields are allowed.

• Plans for the site would be reviewed by city Planning and Building Director Mark Knight.

Brown said, "These parameters are more restrictive to the school than they are now." He added that if a dispute arises, both sides would go into mediation. If that fails, "you're looking at litigation."¯
Also, the public alley behind the Collins House would be licensed to the school by the city and closed to the public.

In addition, FSDB said it would drop their south fence back 20 feet and lower it to 8 feet. School administrators are looking at fence styles that are more like those that surround single-family homes.

Regan also amended the agreement to give the school 120 days, not 70 as the text said, to replace the south fence.

At public comment, Melinda Rakoncay of Nelmar Terrace, who led the residents in their campaign to stop eminent domain, said she is "encouraged."¯ "The school is willing to work with us. My only caution is that I want protection that forever means forever," she said.

City resident Lisa Lloyd praised Regan's contributions. "He really got it,"¯ she said. "He got the passion of the neighborhood. This was a negative situation, but it brought a lot of us together to talk about the issue."¯

Regan in turn praised Sikes-Kline for "being there at every turn."¯ He said there was a cost to the city's good fortune and that was an agreement that if eminent domain remains going through the Legislature, the city won't oppose it.

Commissioner Bill Leary praised the residents for showing "how democracy is supposed to work."
Nelmar resident Paul Weaver, a member of the city's Historic Architectural Review Board, characterized Hutto as a "good neighbor and good man. If we had the past president of FSDB, we would not be here tonight."
--- end Guinta article ---
Comments at

1 - Now we know
By patek
It was about fences, alleys, architecture, and a homeowner upset FSDB wouldn't pay $200 K for his $100 k house.
Why don't the neighbors do something positive and have a "paint party" for the fellow's house? Maybe they could also strengthen the support of that creaky porch. I certainly do not feel any of the homeowners were or are in any danger of losing their homes by eminent domain. So these neighbors were the "loaded gun", what was the kind word?
I think it is time for some new faces on the city commission. After watching most of those speakers last night, I find it most understandable why this group was limited "talking time" in Tally. I think most of them could have said in 30 seconds what it took them to say in 3 minutes last night.
Who is Ed Slavin, what does he stand for? Oh, a disbarred lawyer with a hatred for Flagler College and that other "bad city neighbor", FSDB. What does he do? I smell a trust fund. Why did he not give his physical address? A blog and a post office box number. Talk about bad city neighbors!

By ClaraWaldhari
Enormous kudos to City Commissioners, esp. Nancy Sikes-Kline, who was in the midst of head-to-head mediations; City Admin, led by the unstoppable John Regan; and especially City Attorney "The Unflappable" Ron Brown, whose calm, patience, and mastery of all that data, distilling it so that ALL understood, tamed this otherwise unwieldly catastrophe.
N.B.: The COMMON DENOMINATOR in both those institutions with "WORST NEIGHBOR STATUS" is BILL PROCTOR. He's with Flagler College, which has eaten whole many historical buildings in the college neighborhood, and now this personal vengeance thing to North City with the FSDB.

3 - Sikes-Kline
By Raymond Newdell

4 - By EdSlavin
Our City is united. Thank you.

5 - @Patek
Your lack of information is indicated by your assessment of the items of importance you have "discerned" in this process.
Our City Commission and staff, particularly City Manager Regan performed in a way I'd pretty much have to describe as heroic. They were well-informed, listened intently to all input, and spent an incredible amount of time in active engagement with the purpose of protecting our community from politicians who were exclusively focused on their own personal agenda.
I tend to be jaded by politics, but in this case our local elected officials are to be lauded and appreciated for going above and beyond. The widespread support of the entire community would, in my opinion, place you in a limited minority of people that remain unaware of the facts of the issue.
It's easy to throw stones anonymously, "back seat drivers" (as I would categorize you) lack hands-on engagement and tend to judge those who are actively involved. The speakers last night have been engaged. Where were you?

6 - Now let's defeat Proctor's "stripped" eminent domain bill
By EdSlavin
Illegal lobbying contaminates Proctor's payback eminent domain bill. Senate must exempt St Augustine permanently.

7 - So, divas
By patek
A "painted house" (in need of painting) valued at $100 K that the owner wanted to sell for $200 K to FSDB, fences, alleys and architecture are not of importance? And now the city cannot oppose eminent domain, FSDB will be able to build buildings, fences, claim alleys and not pay $200 K for a $100 K property.  Sounds like a "win, win" situation to me.
And our commission after agreeing, now sending two options to FSDB.
Wonder which one the board will agree to sign?
I would think the one that was agreed upon. Is the commission wanting to renegotiate after signing the deal?
We got some real politicians there! And then when the bill goes through, how will the neighbors (especially those under water) feel about the commission?
How will those with post office box numbers for an address feel?
Which is more historic, the neighborhood, or FSDB?

8 - FSDB
By southerngirl2
Genoply St. should belong to FSDB. One old house that is not taken care of should not stand in the way. It's not worth 25,000 much less the 100,000 that was offered. Just a greedy man that thinks he can hold up the state which looks like he did. Considering that the block is surrounded by the school, it should belong to the school. It would be an enomous improvement to the community.

9 - By EdSlavin
Our entire City is united. Proud to live here.
--- end comments ---

See my last post for history, and explanation of why FSDB was not granted "eminent domain" powers when the remainder of Florida public school commissions were.

This undoubtedly - as cited/quoted by Guinta - is an example of democracy at the grassroots level; and an example of attempts to be "good neigbors" by some, and arrogant disregard by others.

But - as we should constantly remind ourselves - we are a constitutional republic with democratically elected representatives, not a democracy.

And if the time comes when voluntary agreements aren't agreed to or followed, and push comes to shove in the courts, the bottom line as to eminent domain is in the phrase which became part of the U.S. Constitution more than 220 years ago (ratified 12/15/1791) "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

See last post

The final actions of the Florida Legislature in granting "eminent domain" to FSDB; an example of how legislation gets passed in the last minutes of a session when everyone just wants to go home and sleight of hand shuffling comes into play:

CS/HB 1037 (House Bill)

03/05/2012 in the Senate
¶ Received - SJ 850
¶ Referred to Education Pre-K - 12; Community Affairs; Budget Subcommittee on Education Pre-K - 12 Appropriations; Budget -SJ 850

03/09/2012 in the Senate
¶ Withdrawn from Education Pre-K - 12; Community Affairs; Budget Subcommittee on Education Pre-K - 12 Appropriations; Budget
¶ Placed on Calendar, on 2nd reading
¶ Substituted for CS/SB 1348 (Senate Bill)
¶ Read 2nd time
¶ Amendment adopted (206232)¹
¶ Read 3rd time
¶ CS passed as amended; YEAS 38 NAYS 00

3/09/2012 in the House
¶ In returning messages
¶ Concurred in amendment
¶ CS passed as amended; YEAS 115 NAYS 0
¶ Ordered engrossed, then enrolled

BUT/AND contrary to the implications in today's Florida Times-Union and St. Augustine Record news articles, and contrary to the assumptions of the commentators on those two articles, the amended and reconciled Bill which is enroute to the Governor does NOT include the restrictive terms in the interlocal government agreement between the CoSA and FSDB (see last post). It simply grants FSDB - without restrictions - the same eminent domain powers as all other public education entities in Florida have.  

The intralocal agreement can be rescinded, amended or revoked at any time by either CoSA or FSDB - but regardless, FSDB will now have by State Statute (if the Governor doesn't veto the Bill) the constitutional power of eminent domain.

¹Here's Amendment 206232, which does NOT include any of the terms in the local agreement:

Incidently, although Bill Proctor DID NOT file, introduce, sponsor or co-sponsor the Bill, he was vocal in supporting it - one of the very few initiatives where I've ever agreed with his opinions/actions in the last 35 years. Forum Index -> Local politics
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