Island Issues

Local Light Brigade’s “Charge” Will Keep Turtles In The Dark And Lighten Up Wallets

Local Light Brigade’s “Charge” Will Keep Turtles In The Dark And Lighten Up Wallets

OK folks it’s time for Jeopardy. The category is Fernandina Beach City Commissioners Gone Wild.

Answer:    The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Question: What is $500 a day?

That’s correct. If Fernandina Beach residents turn on a light or even posses a shiny object that can be seen from the beach during sea turtle sex season they will be charged $500 per day in fines if a law proposed by the City Planning Department and Commissioner Len Kreger is approved.

We all know that we aren’t supposed to mock, frown at, or speak harshly to sea turtles, but now we’re being told that it’s lights out at sunset because sea turtles might see them and be tempted to wander into a forbidden “no sea turtles allowed” area.

I’m not making any of this up. And if we don’t obey, Commissioner Kreger, who makes environmental activist Commissioner Johnny “Moonbeam” Miller look like a fanatical climate change denier, is proposing that we be fined $500, not just once, but for every day that a light is on where it might be spotted by an alert sea turtle. He’s like every kid’s mom who nagged: “Turn out the lights” but reinforced her scold with a backhand to the chops.

That means that if you take off for a three week African safari with no access to a cell phone or any other form of communications and your wife casually mentions to you in the middle of the Serengeti that she may have forgotten to flick off the back porch light, you would be greeted upon arrival back home with a fine from the Light Brigade of $10,500, and your house invaded by turtles drinking your beer, smoking your cigars, and wearing your slippers.

Violate the lights-out ordinance and you’ll get a knock on the door from one of the town’s heel-clicking “Light Brigade” members vigilantly patrolling the beaches searching for offending beach front dwellers that were reading a book, having a romantic candle light dinner, stumbling to the bathroom, or performing another night time activity that might require some sort of illumination. And don’t even think about opening the fridge and grabbing a cold beer, unless you’re willing to pay Ritz Carlton prices for that brewski.

Knock Knock: “Ve are wiz ze city’s Light Brigade und ve noticed zat zere vas a light on in zis house. Zat is verbotten und you must be punished. Do you still haf family in ze east?”

However, the Light Brigade says residents can avoid the $500 per-day penalty by simply adding blackout drapes or installing special windows at a cost of thousands upon thousands of dollars. The city’s rationale is: “Hey, you can afford to live in a house on the beach so screw you.”

Commissioner “Lights Out” Kreger, comes across like a World War II British Air Raid Warden enforcing black out decrees during the German bombing of London. I Googled it and can’t find one recorded instance of a sea turtle being harmed during the Nazi bombing raids over that city so rack up a point for Herr Kreger.

An all-turtles-look-alike photo!


However, it’s not like sea turtles are as cuddly as a cocker spaniel who’ll hop up on the side of the bed in the morning, lick your face, and fetch the newspaper. Nope, sea turtles are hideous looking creatures with hard shells covered with dirty, gritty sand, sharp claws, and a powerful jaw that can snap off your fingers or any other appendage you may consider useful. In other words they have the appeal of a rabid sewer rat. And by the time one of these slow moving terrapins gets back from the driveway with the morning paper the headlines would reveal that John Kennedy was inaugurated President and West Side Story won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Sea Turtles are being protected because when these sex crazed sea swingers get it on in the ocean their surf trysts result in impregnated females crawling out of their “love nests” to deposit some 50-100 golf ball size eggs in a sandy incubator hole they dig on Fernandina Beach’s turtle maternity ward. To further protect these horny terrapins, their nests are off limits because local do-gooders have marked them with yellow “Crime Scene! Do not cross!” tape. Turtle sex season runs from March through October so your light switches will require a seven-month timer.

Sea turtles fall into what scientists term the uselessrepulsivecooter biological species of animals along with other progress-preventing creatures including spotted owls, the EPA, Fernandina Beach City Commissioners, Public Utility Directors, and City Attorneys.

However, there are lots of people hereabouts who take time out from whatever it is they do, which I hope is not operating complex machinery, to chase newly hatched baby sea turtles around the beaches and shoo them into the ocean where they instantly become snacks for large birds and fish with sharp teeth. These people appear to be as concerned about the welfare of sea turtles as they are the results of the last presidential election and the damage to the environment caused by the discovery of fire.

By the way, in many cultures outside the U.S. sea turtles and their eggs are as extremely popular and respected as they are here but are called “dinner.”

Half a grand, half a grand,

Half a grand you’ll owe,

All on the beach of Fernandina

Fine them five hundred.

“Forward the Light Brigade!

Charge for the turtles!” he said.

Onto the beach of Fernandina

Fine them five hundred.


More Commission Confusion: As far as I know not one of the five Fernandina Beach City Commissioners is a pilot or an architect but that hasn’t slowed this quintet from pursuing its vision of building a new local airport terminal/welcome center to resemble an airplane. No, really — an airplane! Like World War II, its been in all the papers.

But so far our elected officials have come up with a big fat zero, as none of the ideas stemming from their collective flying-building concept so far have gotten off the ground.

DIY Fernandina airport terminal prototype.

In their latest effort City Manager Dale Martin tossed all of the most recently submitted building-that-looks-like-airplane bids — produced by the hopeful suppliers’ random number generator phone apps — in the dumpster since they were vastly over budget, in some cases by more than $4 million. Now that’s a big wad of cash for a tiny town like Fernandina Beach unless they dip into their Impact Fee slush fund guarded by Public Utilities Director of Extortion John Mandrick, who runs the town’s Sewer and Water Crime Syndicate under the guidance of the Commission. But that’s another story, as that money is earmarked for water-boarding local entrepreneurs who think $318 is too much to be shaken down for in impact extortion fees for each bar stool and chair in their proposed establishment.

So, here’s a solution for the Commission’s “let’s build-it-to-look-like-an-airplane” dilemma. They should all pile into Mr. Martin’s car and head to Home Depot in Yulee.* Skip the confusing architect and aviator technical stuff, and ask the advice of one of the fellows with a hammer and a chain saw in his belt that prowl the aisles at this do-it-yourself store. If you’re tackling a build-it-to-look-like-an-airplane project these are your go-to guys. They have books, plans, tools, computer apps, and big trucks that’ll get the job done.

The orange-apron-wearing, tool guys will explain in simple terms that even a klutz like me can understand when you’re determined to construct a build-it-to-look-like-an-airplane project. They’ll tell our dogged commissioners that they’ll need a truck load of pilinary compulators with spindle pusher regrinders with no more than three-quarters of an inch tolerance and some nails. They’ll even toss in a magazine titled “Build It To Look Like An Airplane in Three Hours or Less” and says on the cover: “As seen on TV.”

I know all about this stuff because I asked one of these guys for help on replacing a toilet float once and he told me that all I needed was a truck load of pilinary compulators with spindle pusher regrinders with no more than three-quarters of an inch tolerance and some nails. He also cautioned me not to disturb the little man in the boat who has been rowing around in there since 1968, and even tossed in a magazine called “Build Your Own Indoor Flush Toilet In 30 minutes or Less.”

If Home Depot can’t get the job done, then the commissioners should head to IKEA, or as most people call it: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd, where they have a couple of aisles chock-a-block full of “Build It To Look Like An Airplane” kits. Once they get back to the airport construction site and unpack their kit, they’ll find more than 100 easy to understand pages of how to assemble the “Build It To Look Like An Airplane” instructions printed in Swedish on one side and Sanskrit on the other. If they run into problems there’s a phone number in Stockholm to call between the hours of 2-3 a.m. on Wednesdays on days with even numbers. It will help if the caller speaks fluent Swedish.

However, if they read the fine print it says: “CAUTION: This product should never be erected in an area were winds are stronger than a soft summer breeze or a baby’s sneeze as IKEA is not responsible for the death, destruction and total devastation caused to it or its inhabitants by anyone dim enough to place it in a location where such activity — much less a category 5 hurricane — might occur.”

An IKEA spokesperson told me its crack Swedish scientists are working with the intensity of the World War II Manhattan Project crew on the hurricane version of the kit, but so far have yet to advance beyond a Three Little Pigs straw structure prototype.

By the way local resident and aviator George Murphy seriously summed up the entire airport building controversy earlier this week in a comment here saying: “The design of the “General Aviation Terminal” (don’t tell me we are also planning a “Commercial Terminal”) cheapens the look of a beautiful country facility. What are we trying to do, make it look like Disney World or New Orleans? Over a period of 35 years I have based eight different aircraft at Fernandina,  since Sonny Hawkins was the FBO, and have never felt the need for a “Welcome” center. First consideration should be given to our high fuel prices, cost/availability of hanger space and other flight related needs. Haven’t we learned from the Fernandina Golf Course?  Instead of putting some found money back into the course we built a new club house. Ask any golfer how that turned out!”

For more insightful islander comments concerning the proposed airport building go to this blog’s “Airport & Golf Course Situation Muddled As Fernandina Continues Its Bizarre Maneuvers” February 14, 2017, and read the letters from LM and others.

*Due to Florida’s Sunshine Law if the commissioners talk to each other in the car we have a right to a transcript of those conversations which would probably read as follows: “Can we stop at the next Flash Foods I have to use the bathroom; Dale, tell Len to stop making faces at me; Somebody wake up Roy, he’s snoring again; No, Johnny, I don’t want a sip of your kale shake; I think we left Tim at Flash Foods; I’m the mayor so I get to ride shotgun; Is that a blunt in the ashtray? On the way back let’s stop at Shucker’s and get hammered.”


Deportation Concern: My friend George just posted this on Facebook: “I live in constant fear that President Trump will deport my Latina mother-in-law who lives at 1806 Twig St., Unit 3F, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034 in a blue duplex with black shutters. She gets off work at 6 p.m. and is usually there no later than 6:30.”


Speaking Of Illegals: Who says building a border wall won’t work? The Chinese built one more than 2,000 years ago and they still don’t have any illegal Mexicans.


Tell Us Something We Don’t Know: A Russian spy ship emerged on the U.S. eastern seaboard, Wednesday, March 8, monitoring activity just 20 miles south of the U.S. nuclear submarine base at King’s Bay, Georgia, according to CBS News. In February, the same ship, the Viktor Leonov, came within 30 miles of a major nuclear submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, the farthest north a Russian intelligence ship had ever traveled along the continental U.S. says CBS. It then traveled to Virginia to monitor naval activities in Norfolk. The ship is armed with surface-to-air missiles, along with Russia’s most up to date intelligence gathering technology. It appears that CBS is a bit slow in catching up with what’s happening as these sightings have been going on for years. Just last Friday, while enjoying one of Kevin McCarthy’s Amelia River Cruises, local boaters were telling me that sighting Russian ships off the coast of Georgia, near Kings Bay is a common every-day experience and has been for years.


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Ads for a firm that ships restaurant food keep following me around the Internet boasting that they will send me various quantities of the original New Orleans-based Central Grocery muffulettas with prices starting at $109.00 for two, which works out to a whopping $54.50 per sandwich or a down payment on a used Chevy Volt. Folks, you can buy the exact same muffuletta, only much fresher and fatter, here on Amelia Island at The Surf for $19 or just $11 for a half. Half of this delicious Joey Ledet creation is enough to feed two people and it is the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Each sandwich is made on a round Sicilian sesame loaf that stays crusty despite the sloppy fillings and is stuffed with ham, salami, Provolone and a briny marinated olive salad filled with Kalamata and green olives and various pickled vegetables. Go there and try to eat a whole one (you can’t) or call ’em at 904/261-5711 and tell them to hold you one as they sell out fast and it isn’t even on the menu. I ran into Michelle Seder and Kevin Dooner the new proprietors of what will be called the Sandbar & Kitchen (formerly  Sandy Bottoms) at Main Beach while picking up a muffuletta at The Surf and they tell me that they are hoping for a mid-May opening and, from what they say, if all goes as planned folks hereabouts and visitors will make this one of the must-visit eateries and bars on the island. More about some of their can’t-miss concepts later. And speaking of that area of the beach, if you have guests in town and want to impress them, then take them to The Pointe Restaurant at Elizabeth Pointe, which offers casual breakfast and lunch oceanfront dining to guests and to the public daily, with brunch served one Sunday each month. However, dinner is available only to Inn guests. Call ’em at 904/277-4851. I’ve had a number of people approach me recently and tell me how much they enjoy the food (particularly the steaks), drinks, service and overall atmosphere at the recently opened 801 Kitchen & Bar, at the corner of Beech Street and South 8th Street. I’ve been there only once so far and really enjoyed it and am planning a return trip soon. Call ’em at 904/775-5909.


Vince - 29. Mar, 2017 -

Gee Dave, if you wanted to see something equally ridicules to the “welcome center”, or whatever we are calling a terminal these days, you should have been here some years ago when the city was mulling over an idea to expand the length of the runways to approximately 7000 feet from approximately 5000 feet. There was a meeting held at the city golf course center at which some of the commissioners were surprised to learn the City had asked the FAA to update the facility to that of reliever status to operations at Jacksonville. The explanation was the updated status was merely to move up into a higher priority status to receive grants. Furthermore, it was explained the status upgrade was not related to the proposed runway expansion, similar slight of hand to a welcome center is not a terminal I guess.

Seems some in the audience had a concern why runways were proposed which exceeded half the width of the island. Airport representatives quelled concerns by noting the runways were not built to sustain commercial weight aircraft. Besides some nebulous verbiage about increased safety with longer runways, there was little further explanation for the need to expand. Anyway, after further consideration, the city pulled that idea. Hopefully they do the same here.

If not, perhaps the “welcome center/terminal” design should be redrawn along the lines of an aircraft carrier superstructure. Numbers could be affixed to imitate the numbers on one of our nation’s aircraft carriers inasmuch as the airport was used for training naval aviation pilots during world war II. Might I suggest the USS FB-1.

Ron - 24. Mar, 2017 -

another good terminal design option from the Florida Keys, with an airplane motif:

PETE EDGETTE - 24. Mar, 2017 -


David Scott - 24. Mar, 2017 -

Pete, you are welcome to send the blog or any part of it to anyone you like. Or just tell them to Google it at

John Goshco - 24. Mar, 2017 -

(1) Protect the sea turtles.
(2) Negotiate a reasonable settlement? Ask Alvin’s Island how that worked out for them. The City keeps increasing the fines while the negotiating takes place. After two years of “negotiating”, the City generously reduced Alvin’s Island’s fine from $90.000 to $50,000.

George Clements - 24. Mar, 2017 -

Dave —
This was one of your funniest blogs ever, but I still can’t picture you on a three-week African safari. There are no bars in the Sarengeti and we all know that would not work well for you.

Tom Yankus - 24. Mar, 2017 -

Hmmm…I wonder where the turtles “hide” on July 4th and during those bright fireworks seen from our beach from Brunswick to Jax Beach? Doggie/cat owners want the boom, boom taken out with “soundless” fireworks now the city wants to give the beach back to the turtles! Geez…

R trox - 24. Mar, 2017 -

Just another reason we did not live on the city limits the 17 years we were Islanders.Nomatter who is on the commisssion,The results are the same ,wierd political mumbo jumbo.Where do they come from,mars?

Pat Keogh - 24. Mar, 2017 -

I own some condos on the beach and I’m an officer of the association. A couple of years ago our property manager said he had been contacted by the City re the lights on our building. Ever suspicious of City motives and tactics we arranged a meeting with City officials at the property. At the meeting we discussed the turtle hatching problem and my concern about the heavy hand of City government. I got every assurance that this was all in the spirit of cooperation and education. Butter would not have melted in their mouths. So I committed to turning down our lights and replacing them with turtle friendly lights. We also planned to develop educational signs for our owners and guests; you know like those cool National Park Service signs. Turtle hatching time in the fall corresponds to the down time for seasonal rentals; what a great draw! We could make this work for everyone including the sea turtles. It all came to a halt about 11:30 that night when I was awakened by calls from my tenants that there was a police car, all its lights on, driving on the beach with a flood light shining up on the building and someone with a bull horn demanding our guests turn off their lights. Turtle friendly folks those City officials! Do you really want to give these thugs additional taxing authority to shake down our citizens and guests? If beach lighting is a problem for our sea turtles it should stay in the hands of concerned private citizens educating and working with their neighbors and those visiting our beaches. Folks will do the right thing if properly informed and we don’t need to authorize another City shakedown.

Benjamin Morrison - 24. Mar, 2017 -

There are two notable modifications to the lighting ordinance as part of this proposed change to the Land Development Code that are most important to note:

1) It will hold property owners of existing homes accountable to the same lighting ordinances that have been mandated by DEP for construction of new homes on the beach since the first Model Sea Turtle Friendly Lighting Ordinances were adopted by DEP in 1993 (I think that date is correct, but can’t swear by it). Previously, owners of existing homes were only mandated to meet these ordinances if they chose to replace old windows and doors with new ones.

2) It provides Code Enforcement with the ability to fine property owners in the areas defined in the language of the ordinance if they refuse to cooperate and bring their lighting into compliance.

No one likes to hear about the possibility of new fines, and I agree it sounds like just one more way the City is going to nickel and dime folks. In reality, I really don’t think that will be the case, nor was it the intent. The fact of the matter is that Code Enforcement rarely imposes fines on property owners who are not in compliance with existing City codes and ordinances. Historically, they have always gone out of their way to try and work with property owners to resolve compliance issues in a fair and equitable way before fines are ever incurred. And if a property owner does incur fines that they feel are not appropriate or fair they always have the option of filing an appeal to the quasi-judicial Code Enforcement Appeals Board, which has also historically only enforced the collection of fines as a last resort. Checks and Balances exist, as they should.

I’ve read through numerous Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinances for municipalities up and down the coast, and even if these modifications to Fernandina’s ordinances are adopted by the City Commission, ours will still be by no means the most stringent. Jekyll Island, for instance, is a nightmare to deal with.

Jeff McDowell - 24. Mar, 2017 -

You really came out of your shell regarding your disdain for sea turtle protection measures. But, I have to say, I’m at loggerheads with your approach. I was totally in the dark about this issue until you opined. As for collecting $500 per day “Kreger fine”, well, I find his reasoning slow and ponderous, like a turtle out of water. All that being said, this blog was tasty as a bowl of fine turtle soup. Or as Sinatra would ask, “Or was it simply a mock?” Cheers!

Robert Warner - 24. Mar, 2017 -

Dave – Concerning your diatribe against our Sea Turtle population – and your love of war analogies with associated pictures, I remember reading about the large number of merchant ships that were silhouetted – then torpedoed by German U-Boats – along the Florida coast because of the illumination from those that wouldn’t turn off their lights on the beaches. You keep your well earned reputation for incitement, not insight. Leave the Turtles out of it – they already have enough trouble.

Joe - 24. Mar, 2017 -

Dave that photo is not a sea turtle. Check out the character of the species depicted.