If increasingly high housing costs hereabouts are pricing folks out of the market and upping property taxes it’s not because of greedy developers.
Nope, the blame is totally the fault of inept and inefficient local government, reports the Georgia Public Policy Foundation citing a study published by NewGeography.com. “Housing remains affordable in some of the fastest-growing states in the nation, including Georgia, North Carolina and Texas it reports. But prices remain affordable in these areas only because a lack of government restrictions enable developers to meet just about any demand for new housing.”
The report adds that there is a growing consensus that government land-use regulation is the cause of housing affordability problems.
The report goes on to add that cities often enact “affordable housing” policies that actually make most housing even more expensive. These policies include inclusionary zoning, which requires developers to sell or rent a percentage of new dwellings at below-cost rates; developer impact fees to pay for affordable housing; and increased property taxes to build such housing. Does all this sound familiar? It should because the city has implemented or discussed implementing this and other such economic nonsense hereabouts.
Such misguided policies may provide a few lucky people with housing at below-market rates but at the cost of increasing housing prices for everyone else. For example, when the local loud crowd of tree huggers spouting their woke nonsense team up with a cowed Fernandina Beach City Commission that is ignorant of property rights and a city staff that doesn’t have a clue how a market driven economy works, the consumers — e.g. local citizens — ultimately suffer.
The good news is that if you’re a homeowner in zip code 32034, which includes all of Amelia Island and a narrow strip of eastern Nassau County, your property value will increase by 3.6 percent this year reports real estate web site Zillow.com.
Last year, reports Zillow, the median home value hereabouts jumped from $363,355 to $381,700. It claims there are 772 homes for sale in zip code 32034 and that 40 recently sold.
Demand for housing on Amelia Island and in the city limits of Fernandina Beach is strong and local real estates experts say it will continue to strengthen. However, in Fernandina Beach the city owns almost one-third of the property within the city limits and through a misguided half mill tax “conservation” program forced down the taxpayers throats last year, intends to purchase even more of these nonperforming assets with our money, thereby reducing the supply. This forces current home owners to pay increased property taxes to acquire and maintain these dormant assets. It also limits the supply of available property, increasing the value of existing privately held sites, thereby pricing many out of the market. Oh, the city also recently exercised imminent domain confiscating valuable waterfront personal property it desires for a fantasy waterfront park its been yakking about for 25 years or more.
Despite a bumbling city hall that caved to a berserk, nasty group of self-righteous environmental march-and-scream fanatics who tried but failed to punish builders with banishment or bankruptcy, some highly desirable new Fernandina Beach homes on Citrona will soon become available in a subdivision known as Amelia Bluff to most residents and Hamburger Hill to the militant environmentalists and their city hall allies.
The much maligned but patient and polite bite-their-tongue developers of Amelia Bluff, finally got the go-ahead to resume work on their long-delayed project in a letter to W.R. Howell II (Amelia Bluff, LLC) February 14. In it Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin advised: “With the completion of legal proceedings, the submission of a tree mitigation plan, and the payment of applicable fees e.g. fines ($38,750) related to the project commonly referred to as Amelia Bluff (Parcel ID No. 00-00-31-1180-0017-0040), the stop work order issued on February 21, 2019 is hereby lifted.”
Along with the letter Martin forwarded copies of the February 21, 2019 stop work order, the reviews of two independent arborists, and the accepted tree mitigation plan. He requested written acknowledgement and agreement from Amelia Bluff, LLC.
In the same letter the Inspector Clouseau in Martin emerged wagging his finger at the developers warning them: “Please ensure that all facets of the tree mitigation plan are implemented and maintained. City staff will closely monitor compliance in Amelia Bluff.” Does that mean he’ll have the hectoring and hysterically fanatical Commissioner Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich lurking about the treed site hoping to catch a developer red-handed with hatchet in hand eyeballing an unsuspecting sapling? Lednovich is the loopy city commissioner that contributed money to his environmental extremist pals so they could sue the taxpayers he was elected to serve. Go figure.
I’m not an attorney but it seems to me that the Amelia Bluff developers, who have lost a considerable sum of money while their investment sat dormant because the city, at the request of its environmental extremist allies, wanted to vilify, destroy and punish them, have a strong legal case for compensation. Despite the fact that a winning suit would cost us — the taxpayers — it would be almost worth it to see the city legally whacked because of its venomous anti-business attitude and idealistic stupidity. The three environmental groups that initiated the anti-developer nonsense should be part of any suit the developer might file. It seems to me that “Left Coast” Lednovich also deserves a special legal summons if suits are filed.
With all this in mind it seems appropriate that national magazine Travel & Leisure recently ranked America’s 20 “quirkiest” towns (https://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/americas-quirkiest-towns) and Amelia Island, which isn’t even a town, came in 18th nationwide. Asheville, NC, a legitimate town that puts a whole new blush on the term “quirky”, nailed down a well-deserved first place.
So, what quirks did the editors at Travel & Leisure find so quirky on Amelia Island that landed us a respectable 18th place finish? Here’s what the magazine wrote: “There’s a fickle backstory to this little island town: it has belonged to eight different nations, and today offers a fun-loving blend of Deep South and island culture. The town ranked highly in the survey for historic inns like the Victorian-era Hoyt House and William House and for its family-vacation appeal. For a one-of-a-kind activity with the kids, take Amelia River Cruises’ Eco-Shrimping Tour, where you get to catch (then release) the little shellfish.”
I don’t disagree with magazine’s findings, but I wouldn’t describe them as “quirky” instead I’d say they were interesting, informative and entertaining. Quirky is what takes place during a Fernandina Beach City Commission session, or maybe “frightening” would be a more appropriate word.
Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Dept: An anonymous donor has plopped down $100,000 for Fernandina Beach’s Conservation Land Trust with the promise of an additional 100 grand in matching funds if it can be raised by August 20. “We are hoping that we owe you another $100,000 and hope that the concerned citizens of Fernandina Beach take advantage of this opportunity to make a difference using their collective checkbooks,” said the mysterious donor in a press release issued by the city. However, if the donor expects the local pistarckle crowd of sign-waving, tree-hugging extremists to open their check books as wide as their mouths he’s going to be disappointed. He’ll have called these Amelians bluff (see what I did there?) as they aren’t interested in digging into their own pockets — only yours and mine — to champion their cause. They’re only in a generous mood when collecting to sue local taxpayers. I’m betting they don’t get anything over $1,000 in matching cash if that much. Why should we cough up anymore when the city’s already extorting us through our property taxes.
Piling On: The Fernandina Beach city government’s scorn for local entrepreneurs and the private sector; environmental extremism; incompetence in managing assets and allocating capital; inefficiency in providing services; and its never-ending quest to expand local government by adding additional bungling bureaucrats aren’t the only factors creating local misery and padding our tax bills.
A February report says that illegal aliens are having devastating economic consequences despite the fact the Mexican border is thousands of miles away. Much of the media attention garnered by the border crisis typically revolves around states that border Mexico like Arizona and Texas. Yet a February report reveals the significant consequences of illegal aliens on taxpayers as far north as Montana.
Illegal aliens cost taxpayers in the ten states with the fewest immigrants around $454 million per year, which works out to a net tax deficit of $4,000 to $6,500 per illegal, according to a report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
“In many ways, the influx of immigrants into less populous areas of the country has an even greater impact on long-time residents than it does in larger and more urban areas,” FAIR President Dan Stein said in the report’s news release. “These areas have neither the tax base, nor the economic and social infrastructure to accommodate the needs of the growing numbers of immigrants taking up residence.”
Nassau, with less than 90,000 residents, is a large and sparsely populated county. I bet the social-justice warriors at city hall are drooling all over themselves at the prospect of raising our taxes to provide services to noncitizens.
Local Citizens Rumblings: I was one of a small group of concerned Fernandina Beach residents who met for lunch the other day to kick around some ideas, thoughts and to just talk out loud about ways we think the city could operate more efficiently or if we even need a city government at all. We discussed ideas to identify waste in city government; control taxes, spending and headcount increases; fix or get rid of money losing enterprise zones; and how best to hold those in charge accountable, among other topics. It was an impressive, fun and informative group of very smart, interesting and experienced folks, with me doing a lot of listening and note taking. I look forward to the next session to hear more thought-provoking conversations that include an unbiased look at where the taxpayers money goes, unfettered by the internal viewpoints and politics of the organization that puts the budgets together.
Another Democrat-Controlled Hellhole: If you’re planning on visiting Baltimore for any reason you may want to rethink that decision. Last year the city hit a 25-year high of 348 killings. This Democrat controlled city is also one of the most corrupt in the U.S. How bad is it in Baltimore? Recent statistics provided by the Maryland Public Policy Foundation show that the city’s murder rate is twice that of increasingly violent Mexico. Illegal aliens fleeing the third world countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have a better chance of being killed in Baltimore than in their home countries as its murder rate exceeds the counties they’re escaping. For example just two days ago, Khaled Heeba, a refugee who fled the civil war in Syria was one of the latest Baltimore homicide victims, killed while he was delivering a pizza in west Baltimore. The city is plagued by gang wars, corrupt politicians and outmatched and inept law enforcement. It has had five police chiefs in the last four years and the last three mayors resigned under clouds of corruption. During the 2015 riots then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings told police to stand down and give rioters “room to destroy.” It’s no wonder then that the city suffers from large numbers of vacant houses, massive population flight, and economic decline. Can anyone name a Democrat controlled major city in the U.S. where crime, homelessness, taxes and corruption aren’t on the increase? And these are the folks that want to run the country! Scary!
A Sad Musical Note: Linda and I were saddened to hear that one of our favorite Atlanta musicians — Luther “Houserocker” Johnson (80) — a longtime fixture at blues joint, Blind Willie’s, has died.
Johnson, who was born in 1939 in Hogansville, about an hour southwest of Atlanta, was a regular since the mid-1990s, performing with Blind Willie’s house band The Shadows in that smoke-filled, beery honky tonk’s tiny venue tucked away in Atlanta’s Virginia Highlands section. I once hired Johnson and the Shadows to perform for a corporate group on a party boat at Lake Lanier north of Atlanta and much to my surprise the suits loved them.
Sporting his traditional red bowler, the eclectic electric guitarist and singer, always received a loud and raucous “YES” when he’d ask the crowd “Do you want to hear Houserocker play the guitar with his teeth?” He would then proceed to pick out a show-stopping tune with his choppers. Cosmetic dental work such as that currently advertised on TV would have marked the end of that part of Houserocker’s act.
During the 1990s the Shadows and Houserocker toured the U.S. and performed gigs and festivals in Europe, in addition to regularly packing the house at Blind Willie’s. He and the group played Blind Willie’s well into the 2000s, but he suffered a stroke in late 2018 and his health deteriorated. Blind Willie’s house won’t be rocking quite the same anymore.
Bang Bang Bob: For reasons known only to her, Peg Davis, the ultra-liberal editor of the local News Leader has published another rambling, unreadable opinion piece by Robert “Bullet Bob” Weintraub. This time the pathetic and daffy octogenarian’s word jumble was headlined “City manager vs. mayor. Who runs this town?” (Feb. 19, 2020) a dry, snoozer of blather copied straight from a remedial high school civics textbook. As I’ve mentioned in past columns this pathetic loon is my former next-door neighbor who on Facebook publicly threatened to shoot me and my wife because we planted a celebratory Trump sign in our yard following the 2016 election. And, as I’ve said previously, I’ll continue to remind readers of that every time Ms. Davis – who obviously has no comprehension of the word “editor” – prints one of this armed and unhinged loon’s crayon- scribbled treatises.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Tomorrow, Saturday, February 22, is the 14th annual Montessori School Chili Cook-off in downtown Fernandina Beach. Stop by between 11 a.m. and 1:30 for the tasting. When you’ve done that then stop by the booth in front of PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden and cast your vote for the best bowl of red you’ve ever dipped a tasting spoon into – the Pajamadave-Dave Scott award-winning team entry. Oh, Hupp Huppman and the Honey Badgers will be performing during the event. Tickets for those wanting to taste chili are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 & under. There will also be a kid’s area and arts and craft vendors.