ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Ready to fight.
One group of St. Augustine neighbors is so adamant about a planned project by the Catholic Church, they are organizing and planning steps of action.
The Diocese of St. Augustine wants to build an amphitheater and parking garage on the mission grounds in St. Augustine. It's the same property where the Great Cross is.
Wednesday, a group of about six residents sat around a table on Steve Hill's back porch.
One of the men, Joe Flanagan said, "I didn’t know them before this."
Many of these St. Augustine residents didn’t know each other until they heard about the Catholic Diocese’ plans about a month ago to build on the mission grounds property near where they live.
"We're concerned about what is happening," Hill said.
The newly formed group is called Save STA 2020.
On the mission grounds, the Catholic Diocese is asking the City’s permission to build an amphitheater that would hold up to 1200 people and possibly a parking garage.
Since March, this group of residents formed to fight the project. Their number one concern: traffic.
"St. Augustine is struggling with mobility," Flanagan said.
The mission grounds are located on San Marco Avenue. Recently, the Florida Department of Transportation gave that road an "F" grade. That’s the lowest grade a road can get. And it’s because of the frequent bumper to bumper traffic.
"We are already drowning in traffic," Flanagan said. "This would just make things worse."
People are also concerned about building up an area that has sacred and historic significance. The site has a historic cemetery and is believed to be where St. Augustine’s founder landed in 1565.
The church says the cemetery and cross area will not be touched.
Mission Grounds Director Joanna Stark said the construction is needed to handle the programs they already have going on.
"We just need additional seating," Stark noted. "We have occasionally large groups here that have been coming to the shrine for years."
The group has created a petition to the bishop of northeast Florida. As of Wednesday, it had more than 1400 signatures. The SaveSTA2020 group is also acquiring legal counsel, the group is thinking long term.
"The fight isn’t just about this one development, this one time, but putting in place things for this area and the cares of the city," Hill said.
"We’re not against the church. We’re against the plan," Flanagan said.