OPC wrestles with the inconvenience of abandoned RaceWay station

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 4/3/19

ORANGE PARK – An hour-long discussion about Orange Park’s ongoing problem with an all-but-abandoned building that used to be a RaceWay gas station ends around round of …

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OPC wrestles with the inconvenience of abandoned RaceWay station

Posted

ORANGE PARK – An hour-long discussion about Orange Park’s ongoing problem with an all-but-abandoned building that used to be a RaceWay gas station ends around round of negotiations.

Previously, the council tasked Town Manager Sarah Campbell and Town Attorney Sam Garrison with negotiating an agreement with the owners of the building that used to be a RaceWay on 151 Park Ave. During the April 2 regular town council meeting, Garrison presented this agreement that had already been signed by the RaceWay side as a show of good faith.

“The proposal that RaceWay has put forward is that they would, within the next 90 days begin with demolition and removal of the existing structure of 151 Park, haul it away and clear the land with the exception of the property encumbered by an easement which they’re legally required to maintain,” Garrison said. “If the council agreed to this, to the town’s satisfaction, the existing liens on the property of $69,000 plus...would be forgiven by the town.”

The council debated the idea of forgiving the liens. Some council members, like Roland Mastandrea, believed the liens should be paid in full. Others, like Alan Watt, felt there was a middle ground with the lien amounts that could serve as a win-win situation for both parties involved. After nearly an hour of discussion, it was clear the council was not in favor of that proposal.

As such, Watt made a motion to task Garrison and Campbell with a new negotiation that would see the RaceWay owners fix the environmental issues associated with the property – issues related to gas lines and more — perform a demolition of the building and pay a healthy chunk of the fines.

This motion failed with a 2-3 vote, with council member Connie Thomas, Mastandrea and Vice Mayor Ron Raymond voting no.

Raymond made a new motion to have Watt, who’s a civil engineer with expert knowledge on a topic like this, join the negotiations with Garrison and Campbell. This motion was passed with a 3-2 vote, with Thomas and Mastandrea voting no.

In other business, the council discussed what kind of visioning process they’d like to see performed in Orange Park. In recent meetings, the council discussed the idea of a town vision to determine where the town could and should be in five, 10, 15 or even 20 years. During the April 2 regular meeting, council members explained what they thought this visioning process should entail.

Before doing that, Campbell presented some questions she felt the council’s selected process should answer.

“What is the timeframe you would expect this vision to cover?” Campbell asked. “How many community preparatory sessions do you expect? What type of data do you want? What kind of public outreach do you want?”

Thomas said there should be a steering group that handles this process and that she believes the visioning process should be a year-long study and that it shouldn’t cost more than $80,000. Watt said he believes the visioning process should look farther into the future, with a look at Orange Park 10 to 20 years from now. He could see it taking anywhere from six months to 12 months and no more than $100,000.

Raymond suggested the council hold a workshop to discuss and debate what the town’s visioning process should be, something everyone on the council agreed with. From there, Mayor Gary Meeks directed Campbell to select a date for the workshop to be held later.

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