Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The People's Law School in Session; Legal Lessons Taught at Beach

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The People's Law School in Session; Legal Lessons Taught at Beach

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy, River Bend Review writer

On April 5, when many Beaches residents were out sunning themselves by the pool, at the beach or at Jacksonville Beach's blues festival, a few folks were ensconced at the Ponte Vedra Beach branch library learning about land use law.

They were taking a mini course in zoning, comprehensive planning and developments of regional impact at The People's Law School -- a free program sponsored by the Friends of the Library that's designed to educate the public about various aspects of the law.

County Judge Patti Christensen initiated the four-part program last month in conjunction with the St. Johns County Bar Association. The first session in March focused on tax issues. Next month's topic will be divorce and custody issues and the June session will address condominium law and homeowners' associations.

Christensen conducted a similar program at the Main Library in St. Augustine last year. The informal classes allow attorneys, judges and the public to interact casually. Christensen said public education about the court system is important.

"People who are better informed about how the legal system works have a better understanding of their role in it -- and more reasonable expectations," Christensen said. To have reasonable expectations they need to learn how government laws are enacted, their purpose and the process involved in changing them.

Howard and Muriel Rose said they came to Saturday's session to learn about zoning, and what effect zoning laws will have on the development of Ponte Vedra Beach. Howard Rose said he was especially interested in learning about eminent domain and "how it affects people with property."

Attorney Thomas Ingram, who specializes in land use and environmental law, and Assistant County Attorney Isabelle Lopez were there to answer the Roses' questions and those of the other half dozen participants. They began the program with a presentation about future plans for the county and passed around a large color-coded "2015 Comprehensive Plan" map. …

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