City Commission meets in Executive Session to discuss Impact Fee Lawsuits

Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger
October 30, 2014 9:30 a.m.

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City Commissioners, Court Reporter Bill Hazes, Attorney Authur I. “Buddy” Jacobs, and City Attorney Tammi Bach gather prior to executive session to discuss the impact fee lawsuits.

Five city commissioners along with City Manager Joe Gerrity, City Attorney Tammi Bach, and Attorney Arthur I. “Buddy” Jacobs, met on October 28, for approximately 20 minutes to discuss the City of Fernandina Beach v. State of Florida and the Joanne Conlon v. the City of Fernandina Beach impact fee cases.

During the public meeting immediately following the executive session, there was no response to the request by the Fernandina Observer to “advise the citizens and taxpayers of the City as to whether and when the City Commission will act to approve settlement in the impact fee litigation.”

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The Fernandina Observer is challenging the City to produce the impact fee settlement agreement after the opposing parties informed the Florida Supreme Court that they have “entered into” a tentative settlement agreement.  Click here for previous article “Do the attorneys in the impact fee case suffer from premature announcement?”

Following the executive session, City Attorney Tammi Bach delivered an email to the Fernandina Observer describing the Supreme Court filing as “somewhat inaccurate.”  A portion of her statement follows:

“I understand why you might conclude from the Motion filed with the Florida Supreme Court canceling oral arguments that the City has entered into a settlement agreement. I assure you that the City has NOT entered into any settlement agreement (tentative or otherwise) with Ms. Conlon or anyone else regarding the water impact fee cases.

I believe that the document filed with the Florida Supreme Court was somewhat inaccurate by stating the parties have “entered into” a tentative settlement agreement. Note the term “tentative” in the Motion filed with the Court. Only the City Commission at a public meeting can “enter into” a settlement document that binds the City. The purpose of the Motion filed with the Court was to cancel oral arguments to avoid the parties and Court expending resources in preparation for oral arguments when it is likely that a settlement agreement will be considered by the City Commission and Ms. Conlon in the near future.

I don’t know when a settlement agreement will go to a public meeting before the City Commission. I hope very soon. However, the terms of any settlement have not been finalized and hence, the recent attorney/client meetings with the City Commission and City’s counsel.”

The Fernandina Observer informed the City that it was consulting with Florida’s First Amendment Foundation and that its General Counsel had advised that there is no blanket rule excluding drafts or other non-final document from public records access.

Previous articles on the impact fee cases follow:

Impact fee tentative settlement agreement entered into – When will the city commission act?


Impact fee class action arguments at the Court of Appeal

“The $5,000,000 – Impact Fee Lawsuit Day 1″

Impact Fees – “A paper napkin calculation?”

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We will inform and educate, not confuse and mislead

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Editorial Staff
Douglas Newton
Susan Hardee Steger
Co-Editors
Suanne Z. Thamm, Reporter-News Analyst

October 29, 2014 4:54 p.m.

“So when a print news story surfaces a week before the city election, dredging up allegations and insinuations about one of the candidates, do we sit idly by because we do not endorse? Or do we try to counter such a story with facts?”

From its unheralded beginnings a little more than two years ago the editors and reporters have tried to live by the words above, which are stated in our “About” section on the Fernandina Observer (FO) website. Through three city election cycles the FO has remained steadfast in not accepting political advertising or endorsing candidates. Why? Because we believe it is our job to deliver information to our readers, who can then form their own opinions on which candidates and directions are best for our city.

While those of us who volunteer our services in putting out this news blog have personal opinions, we strive to keep them out of news stories. We label our opinions as opinions—and we put our names on them. And believe us when we stress that all of us—editors, writers and technical helpers– are all volunteers who have two things in common: no Fernandina Observer paychecks and a strong love for our city.

There is always much more going on in this fascinating city than we can cover with our volunteer workers. When we tackle something controversial, we strive to get the facts to back up our stories, whether it be the “Sidewalk to Nowhere,” the impact fee lawsuit, the port’s master plan or more mundane issues like horse droppings on the beach or chickens and peacocks in residential areas.

So when a print news story surfaces a week before the city election, dredging up allegations and insinuations about one of the candidates, do we sit idly by because we do not endorse? Or do we try to counter such a story with facts? In the recent case of Tim Poynter, candidate for the Group 2 City Commission seat currently held by Commissioner Charlie Corbett, we have decided to put some facts at your fingertips. Continue reading

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Train Depot to close next week for renovations; visitors redirected to Marina Welcome Center

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
October 28, 2014 11:58 a.m.

Historic Train Depot - Visitors Center
Historic Train Depot – Visitors Center

Visitors arriving downtown Fernandina Beach during the first week of November following the Georgia Florida Game will discover some changes to on-site visitor services at the foot of Centre Street.  The historic Train Depot has been a magnet for visitors looking for information on where to stay, dine and visit.  For approximately 90 days, the depot building will be closed to visitors so that renovation work can be tackled on the interior of the Depot.   Signs at the depot will redirect visitors across the railroad tracks to the Marina Welcome Center/Maritime Museum.  There the same hours of service will be maintained.  Visitors Services personnel will share the facility with volunteers from the Amelia Island Museum of History, who normally staff the Marina Welcome Center/Maritime Museum.

Marina Welcome Center/Maritime Museum
Marina Welcome Center/Maritime Museum

At the same time the City of Fernandina Beach, which owns both the Train Depot and the Welcome Center, is moving forward with plans of its own to add a 675 square foot deck to the Welcome Center building as part of its plan to move forward with constructing a riverfront park.  Short-term plans call for making changes to what is known as Parking Lot B, which lies west of the railroad tracks between the boat ramp and Brett’s Waterway Café. Continue reading

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City Manager considers H R Director termination?

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City Manager Joe Gerrity
File Photo

Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger
October 27, 2014 11:00 a.m.

 

Editor’s Note: ” . . . Robin Marley, human resource director, told the Fernandina Observer  she received a call [on October 21] from Deputy City Manager Marshall McCrary informing Marley the City will terminate her employment . . .”

The following letter written by City Manager Joe Gerrity was received after a public records request.

October 22, 2014

Re: Notice of Consideration of Termination Employment

Dear Ms. Marley:

Please be advised that I am considering terminating your employment because your conduct has caused me to lose confidence and trust in you in your position as a key official of the City. No final decision has been made.

It has come to my attention that you have unnecessarily created records Continue reading

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Fernandina Observer requests release of impact fee settlement agreement

Submitted by Adam Kaufman, Legal Analyst
October 27, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to City Manager Joe Gerrity after a previous request from the Fernandina Observer to City Clerk Caroline Best to release the tentative settlement agreement whether draft or in final form in the matters of the City of Fernandina v. State of Florida and/or Conlon v. City of Fernandina Beach was denied by City Attorney Tammi Bach.

First Amendment Foundation

” . . . the Observer informed the City that it was consulting with Florida’s First Amendment Foundation and that its General Counsel had advised that there is no blanket rule excluding drafts or other non-final document from public records access.”

October 27, 2014

Dear City Manager Gerrity,

The Fernandina Observer renews its request for the most current copy of the tentative settlement agreement whether draft or in final form in the matters of the City of Fernandina Beach v. State of Florida and/or Conlon v. City of Fernandina Beach. The cases in which now Federal Court Judge Brian Davis ruled against the City regarding its imposition of water utility impacts fees assessed as a result of the City’s purchase of that facility.

On October 7, 2014 attorneys for the City, outside counsel, informed the Florida Supreme Court that they entered into a tentative settlement agreement which by its Continue reading

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TDC headlines FBCC Regular Meeting October 21, 2014

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
October 27, 2014 1:00 a.m.

 

North Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America, Troop 701 chartered by United Memorial Methodist Church-Fernandina Beach and the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council, Troop 269 led the Pledge of Allegiance to begin the meeting.
North Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America, Troop 701 chartered by United Memorial Methodist Church-Fernandina Beach and the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council, Troop 269 led the Pledge of Allegiance to begin the meeting.

The October 21, 2014 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) lasted barely more than an hour.  The major item of business was the consideration of a plan to resolve the property dispute between the city and Marina Restaurant owner Patricia Toundas (see previous article), which passed unanimously. Continue reading

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Amelia Island revealed . . .

Submitted by Mark Gearis
October 26, 2014 6:43 a.m.

Mark Gearis - Court House B & W
Nassau County Courthouse
Photo courtesy of Mark Gearis

Editor’s Note: Mark was kind enough to send photos of familiar Fernandina scenes photographed from a different perspective. Mark enjoys shooting with a wider angle zooms to obtain a “barrel distoration.” We thank Mark for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

Photographers can submitted their photos to susan@fernandinaobserver.com Continue reading

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Airport Welcome Center location decided: East side is FBCC preference

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
October 24, 2014 5:54 p.m.

During a Special Meeting held at 5:00 p.m. on October 21, 2014, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) rejected the recommendation of the city’s Airport Advisory Commission (AAC) and sided with the City Manager in deciding to locate the proposed airport welcome center on the east side of the airport property.  After a unanimous vote from the FBCC, City Manager Gerrity said that he would prepare an RFP seeking bids to construct the facility with a private partner.  If no bids were received, he said he would revisit siting the facility on the north side, as the AAC recommended. Continue reading

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