Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

“Permits! We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Permits! But You Do!”

Both Fernandina Beach’s Building Department and local restauranteur and City Commission candidate, Tim Poynter, appear confused about the requirements necessary to obtain building permits and who is required to obtain them.

Working at night on new AC units beats the day time heat.

A wide variety of construction activity has been going on at 14 South 2nd Street, the site of the now shuttered Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro, and it’s become obvious to passersby and those using the Hampton Inn parking lot next to the former eatery, that new air conditioning units have been installed along with other major construction activity.

Renovation activity is also taking place inside the building. But because the windows are papered over that work can’t be observed. The banging, clanging, and rumbling of workmen coming from inside the facility make it obvious that there is more going on in there than preparing a soufflé. Workers and their trucks are observed coming and going daily at the site dropping off equipment and appliances and taking away discarded material.

So what’s up? Why are no permits posted anywhere? There are none on the paper covered windows or on stakes outside. Nothing! Nada! Zip! Zero! Are other area businesses curious about why there are no permits posted?

I find it ironic that the trailer-truck used to haul equipment to and from the South 2nd Street construction site occasionally parks directly in front of city hall where the Building Department is located. It takes up several parking spaces and even has an orange cone next to it implying that it is authorized to be there.  “Hello! Is anyone home in there?”

From what I’ve read and been told by the city, commercial businesses and residential properties within the city limits are required to apply and pay for permits from city hall. Those folks that don’t follow the rules are fined. Some have been driven out of business for failure to follow the procedures. The most recent city hall victim was Colleen Angel, who shuttered her Hillbilly Hot Dog joint on South 8th Street, after getting into a bruhaha with the city over permit fees. The squabble became prohibitively expensive for her, and she was forced to lock the doors and move on.

“They’ll never expect us to park in front of city hall!”

I called the Fernandina Building Department Wednesday afternoon, May 29, and spoke to a woman named Cindy Mattes. I asked her if permits for activities such as replacing AC units were required. She was very polite and accommodating and said: “Yes, they are.”  I then asked her if any permits have been requested for the building at 14 South 2nd Street. She responded saying the last permit she had on record for that site was for an “air conditioning unit change out in 2021. Nothing since.”

I asked Ms. Mattes to continue to check and she said she would call me back. After not hearing from her or anyone else prior to my deadline for this column, I called back.

Her attitude had changed dramatically. Maybe she was having a really bad day, because when I asked to speak to her boss, Jimmy Parr, she tersely said he was on vacation and then volunteered that the next person in charge was ill.

When I asked if she had any more information about permits for the South 2nd Street site, she curtly told me: “Call the City Clerk and ask for a Freedom of Information Request.”

Following that I then called the new owner of the South 2nd Street business, Tim Poynter, a former City Commissioner, current City Commission candidate, and owner of a number of local businesses including several restaurants and bars.

Does this PVC piping, recently installed at 14 South 2nd Street, require permitting?

Poynter seemed surprised by my questions asking him if he has permits for the work completed and currently taking place at his South 2nd Street location.

“This started out as an investigation,” explained Poynter.  When I told him there were five new air conditioning units installed at his site along with other apparently major construction activity he said: “We discovered lots of rust and rot and just kept going.”

He concluded our conversation saying: “I’ll call the city now and explain what we’re doing, that it was exploratory work and an unusual situation.”

Poynter is running for Seat 3 on the Fernandina City Commission against Christy Kelly.

I’m not an expert and I have never personally applied for permits. That was always left up to contractors who paid for, posted them, and added the fees onto their final invoice to me.

I find it perplexing that local restauranteur and Commission candidate Poynter, who has refurbished and built several local eateries and other facilities here, and has previously served as a Fernandina City Commissioner, would take such a lackadaisical attitude toward the permitting procedures. I also find the overnight change in the city building department’s attitude toward my questioning of the issue going so quickly from cooperative and pleasant to hostile and curt puzzling.

City permitting fees have long been a controversial and contentious issue in Fernandina Beach with many businesses afraid to speak out for fear of sparking retaliation from the city and getting a visit from its shakedown crew.

Local activists Pat Keogh and Glen Stettler have written several opinion pieces condemning the city’s activities. Keogh even brought a successful suit against the city several years ago. Other suits are pending. But nothing seems to deter this mafia-like group from extorting locals.

“Let’s discuss your capacity fees.”

City Commissioners are silent. For example, James Antun, a candidate for mayor and a business owner, who made the fee issue a part of his initial campaign platform, says nothing.  Not a peep from Antun, who is running against Commissioner Darron Ayscue for mayor.  Why? Does he fear cutting off the flow of cash to fund special projects? Or does he fear the city may retaliate against his firm? And why do some business people feel exempt from the fee-generating process? There are many more questions here than answers.

The Stettler-Keogh duo convinced a reluctant City Commission to request the state conduct an audit of the impact fee issue, but so far the city has done nothing to follow up. Until a forensic audit is conducted by the state it appears it’ll be business as usual.

To paraphrase Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Something is rotten in the city of Fernandina.”

***

Meanwhile Over At The Nassau School Board….a textbook brouhaha is brewing. In April the Nassau Citizens Defending Freedom (NCDF} group was made aware of the potential adoption of a Savvas World History textbook in Nassau County, and they want no part of it.

Jack Knocke, head of the local chapter, said his group reviewed the social studies textbook and didn’t like what they read saying, “What we found was astounding!”

Knocke appeared before a public hearing at the School Board May 20 voicing his group’s opposition to the book. He also didn’t much like the hearing officer, Sharyl Wood, who he said: “…..appears to have a bias to accept and even protect woke curriculum.”

Assistant School Superintendent Mark Durham responded to Knocke’s hour-long presentation by defending the textbook saying that it’s state approved and already has gone through a rigorous process of scrutiny by a variety of state educators and school districts.

That didn’t satisfy Knocke who issued a statement saying: “Our objection identified inappropriate, inaccurate, and non-scientific information being presented as scientific fact in order to confuse, manipulate and indoctrinate students into woke social and political ideologies. We found specific issues and documented them in detail with written and verbal testimony. Also uncovered were globalist extremist content, unedited online materials, unreviewed/unreviewable online materials, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) content, Gender Spectrum vendor advocacy and online AI, tracking and third party sharing of student data.”

Knocke emphasized his objection saying: “That’s why there is a LOCAL DISTRICT textbook review option – to protect our local students from bad policies. The District leadership and School Board are our last protection for students.”

Knocke provided a link for Folks who want to read the details. They can click the link here for the written testimony, video testimony and response to the District’s testimony. There are also links to email school leadership and feedback.

The district has not announced its decision on whether or not to adopt the textbook.

***

Overheard At PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden: An obviously not too bright progressive asking her companion: “Where can I buy one of those upside down American flags that Supreme Court Justice Alito’s wife flew at her home?”

***

An Electrifying Study: A recent J.D. Power study reports that electric vehicles had some of the highest rates of problems reported. In part because of their batteries and that they tend to come with more technology built in. It said seemingly simple fixes can run up large bills when damage affects sensors, screens, and other new technology that has become more standard.

***

Fat Men From Space Find Heavenly Hamburgers at the Salty Pelican and First Love.

Salty Pelican burger

One Fat guy landed at Salty Pelican, which he describes as “a great, great spot in historic downtown Fernandina Beach at 12 North Front Street.”

“You can’t beat the sunsets, all the TVs with sports and the location on the river is awesome. “The Burger” is just as good as all those things I just mentioned. Let me tell ya, this is one great cheese burger. It’s a thin double patty burger with your choice of cheddar or America cheese on a lightly toasted bun. I chose America cheese. The Burger was topped with fresh tomato, lettuce, and a dill pickle spear on the side. All were super fresh and delicious. I ordered the fries for my side. They were outstanding. They might serve the most perfect French fried potato in the county. They were so good! I enjoyed this burger while sitting at the bar. There was no wait and bartender Dewayne was great. The whole experience was really, really great. Awesome location with great service makes the Salty Pelican a must try for your next burger. This  burger at the Salty Pelican is $16 with fries.”

The other fat fellow describes First Love‘s burger as “the best $15 I’ve spent in quite some time.”

First Love burger

He  raved on saying, “have you ever noticed a great cheeseburger, truly looks appealing? Its a treat for the nose, AND the eyes. Consider, dear reader, the $15 “smashburger” at First Love Brewing located on Ash street and South 8th.  Perfectly toasted bun, golden brown, bright red tomato, Spanish onion ringlets the perfect purple hue, then, there’s the burger. Let’s take a moment here. Not one, but TWO crispy edged, BUT juicy patties. both patties were smothered in melted American cheese. What can I say, that Jimmy Buffett hasn’t sung about already? Let’s not forget the variety of freshly brewed beer! I enjoyed an IPA beer named “Lily” with mine. Truly a cheeseburger in Paradise!

“The crunchy fries were hot, the toppings were cold, and I’ve added the cook to my Christmas card list. With food and drink this skillfully prepared, perhaps they should change their name from First Love to Everlasting Love. It’s just that good. Having traveled the galaxy like I have, places like First Love make a pitstop to the third marble from the sun an absolute must. I’ll be back, and so should you.”

  • Comment (13)
  • Regarding the Permits issue, I thought for sure you would quote the King of Siam: “Is a puzzlement!”

    Is it in the best interest of the City Commissioners and Building Dept to NOT have a clear permitting policy? You can fleece better/more when the rules are unknown.

  • Thank you for addressing “some” of the ridiculous permitting issues we go through as local businesses. I was told by the city permitting department that if you replace the vinyl lettering on a door it constitutes a new sign and must be permitted which triples the price for the local business. No wonder we often lose business to companies in Jacksonville that come up and do jobs without permitting in hopes of not being caught. And God forbid you call to discuss, or you will get an attitude if you get any answer at all.

  • Get over it and understand that there are very good reasons for the laws that y’all continuously bitch and moan about.

  • The building department only does activities that are one the schedule. Since they have have fired the staff staff and hired an outside group, those inspectors only go to the locations that are on their schedule. They do not care about anything that is going on anywhere else.. so there for people can do what they please and not have to deal with permits. This is what the people wanted when they got ride of the staff inspectors they had. The ones they had cared and looked out for the city, and the ordinances they had.

    • HaHaHa:

      A Georgia appeals court on Wednesday halted the criminal election case against Donald Trump in that state pending the outcome of his bid to disqualify the district attorney prosecuting the former president.

      The order by the Georgia Court of Appeals all but guarantees that Trump and eight co-defendants in the case will not stand trial before the November presidential election, where Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee.

      The appeals court said it would hear arguments on Oct. 4 on Trump’s effort to boot Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the case.

  • How about poytner being able to use a single liquor license for all
    Of his different businesses. Thats wild

  • Is Hunter running for president? I don’t think so. Therefore, not the same thing and he too will be held accountable for his actions if he has committed a crime. For the record, it’s kinda crude to invoke his dead brother’s name too.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has helped save millions of lives, especially with his pioneering work in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and in the global US plan to fight the disease, especially in Africa.

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