New November 6 NHR web meeting announced with little notice: Another piece in the miscommunication puzzle

October 30, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

BY MARCY SHORTUSE- Lee County has announced that a webinar meeting with the state regarding portions of the Boca Grande Historic District’s residential properties being nominated to the National Historic Register, has been scheduled for Friday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.
Original word of the meeting came to the Boca Beacon through Lynne Seibert on October 27, when she asked to have a notice published in the newspaper. On October 28 Lee County confirmed it would, in fact, be taking place … even with such short notice. Normal legal announcements of meetings must be printed two weeks in advance of the meeting date. Seibert is also the one who paid for the ad, not the state.
When we asked Lee County Assistant State Attorney Amanda Swindle when she had first heard about this meeting, she said she was first made aware of the state’s webinar through the letter dated October 24, written by Mikki Hartig and sent to property owners. Hartig emailed a copy of the letter to Lee County Principal Planner Anthony Rodriguez, who forwarded it to Swindle on Tuesday, Oct. 27.  
Swindle said as far as she was aware, notice of this meeting was not provided to the county by anyone at the Bureau of Historic Preservation, at the state level.
The notice says that Survey and Registration Supervisor Ruben A. Acosta and other members of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State will be conducting the webinar for property owners within the proposed Boca Grande Residential Historic District. The webinar is scheduled to last an hour, members of the public are invited to attend. An important note: Those wishing to ask questions must register in advance for the webinar. Read the details to sign up for and log on to the meeting at the end of the story.
Acosta contacted the newspaper in September to publish an ad in the Friday, September 25 newspaper or the Friday, October 2 newspaper regarding the original public meeting, scheduled for October 14, but that was canceled after Lee County officials advised the state that proper notice had not been given to homeowners whose properties were within the proposed district.
 One piece of information in this nomination process is the prominence that the Gilchrist median plays. Before we attempt to figure that out, though, let’s look at the definition of what the state means when they say the “Gilchrist median.”
According to Mark Ard, marketing director and interim communications director for the Florida Department of State, it means, “The four landscaped blocks of Gilchrest (sic) Avenue extending from 1st Street West northward to 5th Street West are collectively one contributing site to the Boca Grande Residential Historic District. The wide avenue features a large, landscaped median accented with tall coconut palms. Cross streets divide the median into four block-long sections. While plantings have been replaced over time, the avenue reflects the original design intent of landscape architect Carl Rust Parker.”
This means the state and the nominator of record, Mikki Hartig, are relying on the fact that Parker’s input makes the property historically valuable. As we have written before, there was no mention of Parker’s input in the Olmsted papers of 1924-25 regarding any landscaping plans, and the Olmsted plans were not implemented directly either, at least as it would trace directly back to them. If the actual planners of the median used some of those ideas back in the early 1920s, it was not contributed to the Olmsteds, or Parker.
If Parker’s or the Olmsted Brothers’ plans were meant to remain historically accurate throughout the years, the casuarina trees planted on the 5th Street median would have never been taken down, as they were confirmed to be part of the historic landscaping architecture.
Ard confirmed, in large part, that the Gilchrist median is the basis of this nomination in terms of community planning and development, and landscape architecture. 
“Gilchrest (sic) Avenue does contribute to the significance and integrity of the historic district under community planning and development and landscape architecture,” he said. “According to the National Register Bulletin 15, ‘How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation,’ page 5, ‘A district possesses a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development.’ As such, districts are evaluated and listed based upon the totality of resources within the proposed boundaries that collectively possess significance and integrity, incorporating ‘both features that lack individual distinction and individually distinctive features that serve as focal points.’ Gilchrest (sic) Avenue is an important part of a larger whole that is evaluated as an important collection of resources that reflect the design, development, and history of Boca Grande.”
Whether the importance of the Gilchrist median is vital or not to NHR nomination remains to be seen. Perhaps we will find out on November 6. Remember, if you wish to speak or ask questions you must register with the state first (see below).
Boca Grande Residential 
Historic District Public 
Information Meeting
Friday, Nov. 6 
2 to 3:30 p.m.
Webinar Address: 
https://attendee.goowebinar.com/register/2730901420837182988
Webinar ID: 640-991-203
Phone No.: (415) 930-5321
Access Code: 549-861-056
 
During the webinar, State Historic Preservation staff will provide some information on what the National Register is, the nomination criteria, what it means for property owners, and how  properties are listed. 
They will also provide a brief overview of the Historic District nomination for the Boca Grande Residential Historic District.