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City of St. Augustine Wants Roof Tiles Returned

6:05 PM, Apr 23, 2012   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The roof tiles that were on a historic building in St. Augustine are now on the ground in front of it.

Some of the red roof tiles which were removed are now at the center of a debate between the City of St. Augustine and St. Paul AME Church.

"It's caught me way off guard, "Reverend Ron Rawls said Monday as he poured through documents pertaining to the issue.

In 2010, his church became the owner of the historic building called Echo House. It's just across the street from the church on Martin Luther King. 

Since taking over ownership of the building, the church received an order to repair it or demolish it.

"We've put more money into it in the last two years than there has been put into it since the early 70's," Rawls said.

A large sign in front of Echo House says it's the future home of a school associated with the church.

However, the pastor says after further examination, that's not a good fit for the property due to a lack of parking space.  He said after the restoration work is complete, the building will be used to house an after school program and a mentoring program.

The tiles were removed to work on the roof, and Reverend Rawls said the church plans to put on a less expensive shingle roof in the fall.

After finding a buyer for the tiles, the church sold about 2,000 of the red tiles last week.

George Arnold, a homeowner in St. Augustine said the church sold the tiles to a roofer, who sold them to a contractor, who sold them to him.  Each transaction, he said, was $2,000.

The city is not happy.

"The city feels like the church should have kept the tiles on the property," City Attorney Ron Brown said Monday.  He said the city and St. Paul AME Church applied for a historic preservation grant together and received $2,000 to restore the roof, using the original tiles.

Reverend Rawls does not remember that.

"I asked them to please send me whatever I signed," Rawls explained, "and they sent me documents. Nothing had my signature on it."

Brown said, "The city - with agreement and cooperation of church - applied for the grant."  

The city is going further, pointing to a clause in the Echo House deed. It's called a reverter clause.

 Brown explained the clause says "If the owner of the property used the property for any purpose other than education, non-profit, or benevolent work, than the city could go to court and ask for the property back."

Brown added that applying the reverter clause is one option the city commissioners can choose.

If that happens, the city would have to take the church to court.

"The church hasn't done any work on the property in about a year," Brown noted.

Rawls disagreed, showing a document which said there was construction on the Echo House in November 2012.

"The city is saying the tiles belong to the property," Brown explained, "and the church has a duty to preserve that property and not let it go to waste.  The tiles properly belong on the property."

Rawls said, "You don't go from telling us to demolish a building to making the tiles this huge, beautiful thing you want to get back,"  

For now, some roofing tiles sit in front of Echo House as the debate continues.



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