ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A pristine piece of land in St. Augustine that has been at the center of a debate about development is in financial trouble.
The Fish Island property is up for foreclosure, so what does this mean for the property's future?
Fish Island sits on the Matanzas River in St. Augustine. It's not an island at all. The 30-plus acres are on Anastasia Island, on the eastern base of the 312 Bridge.
Susan Hill opposes development of that land. She said, "The people who live here recognize the value of that property."
The people who have packed government meetings and voiced concerns about developing Fish Island just learned this week that the bank has reopened a foreclosure case against the landowner: Fish Island Development LLC.
Documents say the bank claims it is owed $6.5 million from the landowner. It's waiting for a judge's ruling.
Could the land be sold for less? The prime real estate is attractive to both developers and conservationists.
St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver would not comment if the city is interesting in buying the land, but she said this interesting turn of events gives people who would like to see the land preserved an opportunity to purchase it.
Shaver said, "Having property that isn't covered with concrete is better than property that is."
First Coast News broke the news about the Fish Island foreclosure to Jim McCarthy, the director of the North Florida Land Trust, a group which buys land to preserve it.
McCarthy said, "If the property becomes available we would certainly move very quickly to obtain this property."
However, the cost could be an issue. Again, the bank says its due $6.5 million. While McCarthy said that's less than what he thought it would be, it's still more money than the North Florida Land Trust "could write a check for."
"We've got to get ready for a potential acquisition sooner than we thought. As a result of that, we at the North Florida Land Trust need to figure out who our partners could be," McCarthy said Friday.
Meanwhile, the city's planning and zoning board has postponed a decision on a developer's request to cut trees on the Fish Island property to create a drainage ditch for future development of the land.
The fight to save this historically and environmentally sensitive land continues.