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Program History

Although archaeology has been a fixture in St. Augustine since the 1930s, with a hiatus during World War II, the City's Archaeological Preservation Ordinance was not drafted until 1987. Prior to this, most projects focused on academic research questions or historic preservation agendas and did not address archaeological remains impacted by construction. The current City Archaeology Program evolved in tandem with the development of its Archaeological Preservation Ordinance. A cooperative agreement between the City and the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board (HSAPB) was enacted when the initial ordinance was drafted in 1987. The agreement stated that HSAPB would contract with the City to supply the personnel and support facilities necessary to implement the program and the City would pay the salaries for an archaeologist and assistant.

In 1990, the ordinance underwent changes that clarified the language and addressed other issues overlooked in the original ordinance. Instead of contracting archaeological services, the City hired its own staff archaeologist. Since then, the City Archaeologist has investigated, with the assistance of community volunteers, an average of 30 project sites per year preserving–through documentation–St. Augustine's rich archaeological legacy. In 2005, the position of Archaeological Research and Collections Assistant was created, substantially increasing the Division's ability to manage the sizeable artifact collections, database, and photographic archives generated since 1987.

About the Ordinance

The City's Archaeological Ordinance is distinctive in that both public and private properties are evaluated. The ordinance requires archaeological review of all building, right-of-way, and utility projects. This is part of the City's permitting process and is undertaken by the Department of Planning and Building, which assesses all plans to determine whether they will have any adverse impact on archaeological resources.

If a project occurs within one of the three primary archaeological zones and exceeds the criteria for ground-penetrating construction activities, Planning and Building will notify the property owner. The owner then completes an archaeological permit application and pays a fee prior to investigation by the City's Archaeology Division. The fee is an estimate of the construction cost, which is determined by archaeological zone: Zone I is 1.5 percent, Zone II is 1.25 percent, and Zone III is 1 percent. This fee helps to support the City's Archaeology Program.

Depending on the archaeological zone in which the project occurs and the extent of ground-penetrating construction activities, the time spent by the City to investigate the property can vary from a couple of days to several weeks. For example, commercial development in the colonial downtown district, which is in Zone I, the most sensitive zone, can last a few months, whereas construction of a single-family structure is limited to a few weeks. For Zone II and Zone III the time allotted for an investigation diminishes to no more than a few weeks for both single-family and commercial properties. The City's Archaeology Program strives to facilitate the investigation in a timely manner for the property owner and/or contractor.