Boynton Still residents sue City of Tallahassee over road closures

Residents of Boynton Still have sued the City of Tallahassee for allegedly illegally fencing off an area that closes two public roads.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
August 20, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Residents of the Boynton Still neighborhood are suing the City of Tallahassee for alleged violations of the city's land development code, the Leighanne Boone Law Firm said in a press release. The code in question requires the city to follow an extensive procedure and analysis before closing a public road.

Bulldozing the Boynton Still neighborhood was part of the final phase of the city's FAMU Way development, and residents have protested the decision since June, arguing the neighborhood had historical significance. Before most of it was torn down, the community was eligible to be nationally registered as a historic district.

According to the release, locals who used to live in Boynton Still would gather every day where Shingles Chicken House used to be, but the lawsuit says the city started fencing off the entire area on August 12.

The suit says this fencing is illegal, since it closes two public roads, Miles Street and Still Court, without use of a city commission resolution or permit, publishing notices of closure or holding a public hearing.

The plaintiffs, Robert Davis Jr., Vivian Scott and Samuel McKinney, have met at this site since they were kids, and other residents do the same. The release said the city wants to remove the heritage trees that provide the gathering spot with shade.

The suit also points out the city is blocking the public roads for walking, biking, driving, recreation and socializing.

The City of Tallahassee evicted local residents from the land and streets to cut down old trees for a new connector road from FAMU Way to Lake Bradford Road, the release said.

The city also created a stormwater retention pond to help with water quality and send cleaner water to Wakulla Springs, but according to the release, environmentalists believe it has little impact.

The release also says removing the oak trees, one of which is 6 and a half feet wide and hundreds of years old, would harm the water.

"What is infuriating to the plaintiffs is that the demolitions, evictions, and associated road closures were completely unnecessary," the release said. "The very well-intentioned plan for the FAMU Way extension and retention pond did not have to be executed in a manner that required the demolitions, evictions, and road closures."

Residents have reached out to the city about the road closures, and since they haven't been reopened, the suit was filed.

City engineer Steve Shafer sent WCTV a statement about the lawsuit.

"With construction underway, it was necessary to temporarily close the road to create a safe working environment for the contractor and the public," he said. "The process for any permanent closures will be complete din the future once stormwater project plans are finalized."

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