It could be another month before St. Augustine regulators decide what to do about a retaining wall at HGTV’s 2024 Dream Home property on Anastasia Island.
The Planning and Zoning Board on Tuesday voted to delay a vote that would approve a rip rap at the home after it had already been built.
HGTV’s 2024 Dream Home property is a contest where people can enter for free for a chance to win the three-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,300-square-foot home. The winner gets a fully furnished home, a new Mercedes-Benz car and $100,000 in cash.
The problem is the builders have constructed the rip rap — rocky materials that are placed around a seawall — between the house and an adjacent marsh, but they did not have approval for it. The board is concerned about how the rip rap will affect the surrounding environment and future homes that could be built in the Pelican Reef neighborhood on Anastasia Island.
Builders told board members there are no major negative effects from the rip rap, but the board said it wants more information before making a decision that would have implications on the dream home moving forward.
Specifically, the board wants to learn more from the builders, Ackerman LLP, about plans for the home, communications with other government agencies in the lead-up to the construction, environmental reporting and more before taking up a vote at its next board meeting, on March 5.
Board member Charles Pappas said the decision to hold off on possibly approving the rip rap and retention wall probably would have been different if the builders had asked for approval before the home was completed rather than after it was done.
“We probably would have looked at that swimming pool and there’s a chance we would of reduced the size of that deck and pool. We would have looked for an environmental engineer to give us reasons and whys and exactly what would happen, which we do all the time,” Pappas said. “I mean, not to use an incorrect word, but we basically harass them for the information to make sure we make the decision correctly. We don’t have that opportunity now, and that’s what bothers me.”
Board member Mike Davis said it appears the plans for the back of the house changed last year between April 28, when the building permit was issued, and June 5, when the pool permit was issued. City staff said the plans should have come back to the Planning and Zoning Board for review between those times. City staff said measures have been taken to hire more staff so this type of issue doesn’t happen again.
Carolyn Haslam, the attorney representing the builders, said the issue of the rip rap and retaining wall needs to be settled sooner rather than later.
“I don’t think we want to get into an appeal and a six-figure lawsuit over this. I mean, I don’t want to, I really don’t want to, that’s not my intention,” Haslam said.
She said the sweepstakes for the new home is coming to an end soon, and once it does, they will want to let the winner know and this delay could set back those efforts.