A number of years ago while preparing a response to a media inquiry about the sale of a company asset I asked the chairman and founder of the corporation I worked for if the property in question was indeed for sale. He answered saying: “For the right price everything is for sale except my dog and my wife.”
I don’t know if Amelia Bluff developer Wirt Beard has a dog or if he’s married, but he’s essentially taken a similar stance over the housing development off Citrona across from the Fernandina Beach High School, a position generously granted him by confusion and chaos in city hall.
The City Commission has put Mr. Beard and the other Amelia Bluff land owners in an enviable negotiating position while bumbling around to correct an issue that didn’t need a correction.
Originally the Amelia Bluff property site was owned by the Nassau County School Board, and intended as a location for future school buildings.
The City, the School Board, and the developer entered into an agreement in August 2017 that was approved by the City Commission.
In May 2018, city staff reported that the developer had fulfilled all of his obligations and the Commission approved the preliminary plat for the Amelia Bluff development. The Planning Advisory Board, emphasized that at every prior step in the approval process, that staff had certified that the Amelia Bluff plans were consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
Because all the appropriate city agencies and officials agreed, construction of the 30 single-family 12-acre housing development got underway and contracts have already been received on at least seven homes.
It appears that the developer did everything he was asked to do and more, even paving a sidewalk in front of the across the street high school.
Mr. Beard described all these issues and inconsistencies at the City Commission meeting last Tuesday, where the commission agreed in a 3-2 vote to resolve the matter giving the developer permission to go ahead.
None of that matters to Chicken Little Commissioners Mike Lednovich and Chip Ross, the two dissenting commissioners who reacted like the builders were constructing a dump for radioactive waste on the site.
Pressured by Amelia Island Tree Conservancy activists, which were cheered on by California transplant and 16-month island resident Commissioner Lednovich, and the cantankerous “Let’s sue their pants off” Ross, Mr. Beard– even though he didn’t have to — stopped work on the 30-house development ahead of a stop work order threatened by City Manager Dale Martin.
Commissioner Lednovich even pleaded publically for a local pitchfork and torch crowd to turn out in mass for a second commission vote March 19 to voice their disapproval of the development despite the developer following all the city’s rules and successfully maneuvering the city’s trail of confusing inconsistencies. The joined-at-the-hip Ross and Lednovich duo don’t care. They want the developers and the development to go away no matter what the cost to the tax payers. “Get out” they chant despite the prior approvals, land now being fallow, the trees cut, housing plats laid out, roads ready to be paved, and buyers waiting.
Would the fist-shaking Ludovich-Ross duo have been as vehement if the school had gone ahead with its planned buildings on that site, inciting a “No more schools” screaming mob? These two commissioners make Mayor Johnny “Moonbeam” Miller look like the most reasonable guy on the Commission these days, and that’s saying a lot about a guy who said a little over two years ago that he wanted to tattoo a picture of Bernie Sanders on his butt.
A friend of mine, far more knowledgeable than me on such issues, looked at the site and reported back that improvements are well advanced. He said, “with site development at this stage it seems probable that the owner had permits to proceed. I can’t see why anyone would want to unwind the deal.” He speculates that If the city did yield to the activists, and Ross, and Lednovich, the city would likely owe the owner the cost of the site and his development costs and other damages to date. He said he’s seen it happen here before and it has cost the tax payers a bundle.
According to news reports Mr. Beard says he followed all the rules as outlined by the city. In an article in the online Nassau County Florida Independent he said he submitted plans to the Planning Advisory Board and Technical Review Committee, as required, and he relied on their feedback and support. “We relied on the system,” he said.
In an interview with Mary Maguire of the Independent Mr. Beard said, “I don’t know why it has flipped flopped, back and forth. We want to resolve the conflict and resume the development.”
“I don’t think we’re heading to litigation,” Mr. Beard said in the Independent interview.
According to the Independent Mr. Beard said the land owners have spent “northward of $2.3 million” to date on land acquisition, engineering, infrastructure, and marketing efforts. He said seven houses are under contract through builder D.S. Ware. The prices, he said, range from $500,000 to $600,000—“If not a little higher.”
If the opposition prevails, he would consider selling the property to the city he says. From what I’ve observed a pair of irresponsible bullies on the city commission have pushed all the bargaining chips to Mr. Beard’s side of the table with a “So what! It’s just tax payer money” attitude. This is what happens when only 22 percent of the electorate votes in a local election.
“Anything is for sale at a certain price,” Mr. Beard said, echoing my former boss.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “What do hookers do on their nights off, type?” — Elayne Boosler
Crying “Fowl”: For about 20 minutes The March 5 Fernandina Beach City Commission meeting morphed into the “Pick a Little, Talk a Little” song from “The Music Man” in which a group of small-town busybodies gossip in such a manner that they sound like a brood of cackling hens.
As a result of their clucking — led by the anti-chicken chicken-dancing duo of Commissioners Mike Lednovich and Chip Ross — the Commission concluded that “If you like your chickens, then you can keep your chickens.” But don’t think about counting you chickens before they hatch, because if they do hatch they’re toast, they added.
During the session the city rejected a proposed ordinance that would have allowed residents to keep chickens in their back yards without the need to get a specific permit from the City Manager, which they now have to do.
Commissioner Lednovich, advocating against backyard fowl, referred to backyard chicken research he’s conducted, citing health and safety concerns including salmonella and something called Newcastle disease. His joined-at-the-hip pal, Commissioner Ross, performed his traditional statistical “dump” this time related to what he said are problems with chicken manure and diseases. Ross said, “It comes down to chicken poop, chicken noise, chickens attract predators, cluck, cluck, cluck, etc.”
In a nutshell Ross said he couldn’t find any good things to say about keeping backyard chickens or any other barnyard animal in the city. He reminds me of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball fans who booed kids who failed to find Easter eggs during an egg hunt there several years ago.
City Manager Dale Martin said that there are currently seven permits for backyard chickens in the city. Commissioner Lednovich asked if following defeat of this ordinance “the chicken police” would confiscate chickens. City Attorney Tammi Bach said “no” adding that it would be the job of the current poultry holders to come into chicken compliance and not run “afowl” of the new ordinance.
Ultimately the commission decided it didn’t want the city manager to issue any new permits for backyard chickens and said those folks that currently have chickens could keep their chickens if they like their chickens, but not add any more chickens to their flocks.
So what happens if a compliant resident chicken lays an egg that hatches? I’m told that the Catholic, anti-abortion, in-town St. Michael’s Academy students keep at least four chickens on their campus, maintained by its young students. Good grief, are we looking at a barnyard, late-term abortion infanticide issue here? What do we tell the kids? Can we expect pro-chicken-life protesters to mob City Hall? When does all this chicken s__ nonsense end?
Suit Halts FBCC TV: Folks accustomed to watching Fernandina Beach City Commission hearings on television will soon be disappointed as City Attorney Tammi Bach has recommended that the city discontinue its live streaming and live cable TV broadcasts of public meetings due to a lawsuit brought by a legally blind south Florida man.
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Juan Carlos Gil, who is legally blind and lives in south Florida, has suffered isolation, stigma, segregation, rejection, shame, humiliation, emotional suffering, pain, and anguish. He is seeking damages, attorney fees and expenses, and any other relief deemed “necessary, fair and just.” The suit calls for a consultant to perform an accessibility audit on the Fernandina Beach website and to perform periodic updates.
Mr. Gil may not like what he’s asking for. In my opinion if his suit is successful and he’s able to observe future City Commission meetings he’s likely to file another law suit, alleging even more emotional suffering, pain and anguish. It also means I may actually have to attend these sessions in person in order to report on their antics. YIKES!
Anyway, in a March 6 memo to the Commission Ms. Bach said the broadcasts can’t continue until real-time, on-demand closed captioning can be provided. The lawsuit, filed February 11, alleges that Mr. Gil cannot access documents posted as PDFs on www.fbfl.us because they aren’t electronically compatible with his screen reader software.
According to the suit some of the information he would like to read, but can’t, include a brochure on the Egans Creek Greenway, stories on Bosque Bello cemetery and information on the spring 2019 co-ed open softball league. He really wants to read about the co-ed open softball league? Once he gets a load of the PJD Beer & Wine Garden team, he will quickly regret that decision. This group went the entire 2018 season without a win and only this year did it even score a run, its first ever. This may be some kind of world softball record. However, the one thing the “players” on this team do very well is enjoy themselves.
According to City Attorney Tammi Bach, a consultant is working on a website accessibility assessment and the Florida League of Cities has provided a lengthy list of information and resources, including links to webinars on handling ADA lawsuits, including one that was held last week.
Is He Worth $330 Million? Friend and former Tampa Plant High School classmate Larry Thorneberry chimed in on the recent 13-year contract signing of baseball slugger Bryce Harper by the Philadelphia Phillies in the March 4 “America Spectator” writing: “As gaudy as Harper’s $330 million deal is, it could have been worse. Phillies GM Matt Klentak and hobby owner John Middleton at least had enough discipline to turn down agent Scott Boras’s first tender which called for all the property east of the Mississippi, a cash amount equal to two-thirds of the national debt, and a signing bonus equal to Jeff Bezos’s divorce settlement. Boras isn’t just a bear — he’s a Grizzly. He has more brass than the Acme Spittoon Co.” Larry went on to question the contract’s value to the Phillies writing: “Signing any player, including a young Babe Ruth, for 13 years would be a roll of the dice with a very good chance of coming up craps somewhere along the long line. Young Bryce — he’s 26 — is indeed a talented ballplayer, a solid defender with power to burn at the plate. But he’s notoriously hot and cold and sometimes injured. In the past four seasons he’s bookended a .330 and a .319 season with a 243 and a .249 season.”
And No Popcorn Either: As part of his sentence for illegal hunting activities a Missouri hunter has been ordered by the court to watch the Disney movie “Bambi” according to an article in “American Legion Magazine.” The hunter was accused of illegally killing hundreds of deer, decapitating them, and leaving their bodies to decompose. Three relatives and another man were caught in connection to a poaching case and paid $51,000 in fines. The poacher will watch “Bambi” once a month during his 12-month sentence.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Good friend Joe Murphy and I enjoyed lunch together at downtown’s Happy Tomato yesterday, Thursday, March 7, and mutually agreed we need to go there more often. The Tomato provides an interesting array of salads, sandwiches and barbeque dishes all at more than reasonable prices. Joe and I both had the pulled b-b-que pork sandwiches that comes with sides of potato chips, cole slaw, beans, or potato salad and is served with sweet, mustard, or spicy sauce. The sandwich is delicious, huge and sloppy so grab extra napkins. All that and ice tea for just $10 is a bargain. Try the $9.00 Monster Club sandwich and you’ll end of taking half of it home. The Tomato is tucked into a cozy courtyard at 7 South 3rd Street. Call ’em at 904/321-0707. Ask for Richard, the personable hands-on owner. Good friend Jeffrey “Sailor Boy” McDowell, picked up his second consecutive chili cook-off trophy at the annual informal PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden chili cook-off event last Sunday. The event, which consisted of seven dedicated chili heads including me, was originally initiated by Pajamadave Voorhees following last year’s city-wide event that was cancelled at the last minute. Anyway, I didn’t win so all of this doesn’t really matter so I don’t know why I’m even mentioning it.
Betsie, nice points. One addition, the City has a FLUM/Plan moratorium on the agenda but that plan excludes the Bluffs controversy because it was in process at the time the moratorium resolution was put forth. See, the proposed moratorium conveniently carved out pending matters from its scope which I am sure Coleman would agree any well run city government would do facing a self generated disaster: bury it.
While all this is going on, let’s not overlook the latest plan to build another hotel, this one on the airport property. Reviewing literature about that shows the City is still considering expanding the runway lengths which we need like a moose needs a hat rack. The runway expansion was quietly placed into the latest airport master plan. Since it is in the plan, it means it must be done as any well run city proponent like Coleman would be sure to point out. Maybe the hotel can be built in the fashion of an aircraft carrier superstructure so the island can have the look of an aircraft carrier from above?
RTrox, really? Fernandina Beach is the worst run and governed city in Florida? I am sure you base this great insight upon your living in every other city in the state for comparison…but I might just offer the City of Jacksonville as a possible candidate- let’s talk crime, a good measure of how a city is run. According to Tripsavvy.com, “For Jacksonville, we found that the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the nation, across communities of all sizes (both large and small). Violent offenses tracked included rape, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, armed robbery, and aggravated assault, including assault with a deadly weapon. According to NeighborhoodScout’s analysis of FBI reported crime data, your chance of becoming a victim of one of these crimes in Jacksonville is one in 152. ”
But…you know better I am sure, and so, with all your study and knowledge of all the cities in Florida, you pick Fernandina. Wow, if I didn’t know any better, I would bet that you are one of the “Lets bash the city no matter what malcontents” and to hell with some of its great accomplishments, like being one of the best cities for ADA compliance in the country. Oh, but who cares about wheelchairs, visual or audio impairments, and such nonsense, just let them eat cake!
BTW, RTrox, what is your real/full name? Just asking since slinging mud by semi-anonymity just seems so…lame.
The 6.4 acres in question inside the Amelia Bluff project are designated on the FLUM as “conservation”. They have been designated as such for 8 years.! It is against code to build on conservation or wetlands and Mr. Beard has admitted publicly that he has known all along that this was the case. He further stated that when he first got started on platting process he asked Mr. McCreary about the FLUM and was told that he should not worry – “it would be taken care of”. That never happened but Mr. Beard went ahead and put shovel to ground anyway. This is not about who owned the property then or now. Had the city right of way at Gum Street not been addressed to the satisfaction of the buyer (so he could put in the number of houses he wanted) the sale would likely not have gone forward! So besides the buyer/builder, there were plenty of folks involved in the sale of this land with eyes on the maps trying to correct that issue; city planning, zoning, attorney, seller, title companies, and an architectural firm at a minimum. No one – not one single person or entity appears to have stepped up to address the FLUM problem in the process. Watch the tape of the PAB for additional details! When it comes to FLUM vs. the Comp Plan – the city attorney has been crystal clear. The FLUM rules. The issue is so important to proceeding with permits in the city there is now an entire moratorium wrapped around numerous other inconsistencies between the FLUM and Comp Plan. Your characterizations of the folks involved in this matter (Commissioners, ATC) are unfair and unkind. No one wants to stop all development in the city. But if you are going to do something be fair and square about it and expect to play by the rules – all the rules! They are there for a reason and no one should presume they have the right to ignore them.
I don’t always agree with you, Dave, but I always enjoy reading your article. This blog has to be my favorite. So far. Democrat or Republican- we have to maintain the decency of calling it as we see it. Thank you. And Thank God I don’t live in FB city limits any longer. It’s unquestionably the undisputed champion of hypocrisy.
Sounds much like the hotel deal on Sadler some years ago. Bunch of cranky neighbors did not want the development and raised objection based on a phony claim of destroying “precious wetlands”. Owner threatened suit and city bought the property for his acquisition costs plus planning and legal expenses. We’re converting a derelict “internet cafe” in the county to a restaurant and the county officials are a professional delight to deal with. Remind me, with all the duplication between city and county functions, what sense does it make to have a separate city government. The public friction with City government just kills deals.
Right on Dave. Guess the City Commissioners don’t want an Island culture like Hatti ,Hawaii, Puerto Rico where range free chicken’s are prolific and welcome. They are the Voodoos
fowl of choice.
Just another reason I never
wanted to live in the city limits of Fernandina Beach.
Has to be the worst run and
governed city in Florida.How
the city attorney keeps her
job is a puzzler.They could pay off their debts with the
money they lost in stupid law suits.The Wonder is,it
never changes no matter how many new commissioners are elected.
Thanks for the laughs. Loved this week’s. BLOG
Reading your weekly blog I often ask myself “Self…David can’t make this stuff up about the shenanigans of the Fernandina Beach Commissioners can he?” I mean, it’s chicken s___ insane! I suggest you keep your notes writing a script one day and produce a Broadway play/comedy.