Editor’s Note: Today, Colin Baenziger & Associates provided a list of its selection of top candidates for the position of Fernandina Beach City Manager. Baenziger will appear appear before the City Commissioners to discuss the candidates on September 8.
Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm Reporter – News Analyst September 2, 2015 3:04 p.m.
Many citizens and members of the Amelia Island Tree Conservancy attended the September 1, 2015 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) to express concerns over the planned unit development (PUD) proposed for a 7.41 acre tract of land on Citrona Drive between unimproved Hickory and Indigo Streets. Discussion lasted an hour and a half and covered a wide range of topics including tree removal, the PUD’s impact on Egans Creek, soil testing for possible contamination from earlier uses, impact on traffic load on Citrona Drive, lot coverage by impervious surfaces, and type of housing to be built.
The applicant, Robinson Creek 34, LLC, sought a small-scale future land use map change and zoning map change in order to develop a single-family detached subdivision to be known as Shell Cove. The project will provide approximately 48 single-family homes while incorporating open space. The PUD overlay will allow the applicant to accommodate smaller building sizes and have flexible setbacks in order to preserve more trees.
Following a detailed presentation by the applicant, staff and commission comments and considerable public input, the FBCC on first reading unanimously supported changing the Future Land Use assignment of Medium Density Residential to the parcel (Ordinance 2015-22) and changing the Zoning Map with the PUD Overlay (Ordinance 2015-23) for the parcel.
These actions were previously reviewed and recommended by the city’s Planning Advisory Board during its August 12, 2015 meeting on a 5-2 vote. Continue reading →
Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger September 2, 2015 2:46 p.m.
Concerned citizens, many involved with the Amelia Island Tree Conservancy took advantage of the Joint City-County meeting held on August 28 to voice their displeasure over tree removals taking place on development sites throughout Amelia Island. Of particular interest was the recent tree clearing on the former McArthur property on the Buccaneer Trail in Amelia City. Several years ago, the Nassau County Commission was urged to buy the property, but they declined.
The subject of trees was not on the agenda but citizens spoke to the issue during public comment.
Chris Occhuizzo, spoke of the recent “unrestrained development” that is causing a “tidal Continue reading →
Submitted by Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter September 2, 2015 10:42 a.m.
Though there are a lot of things to do in our town, sometimes it’s nice to stay at home and read a book. Recently I finished one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. There are many reasons to recommend this book. Most of the people I’ve mentioned it to have either read it or are reading it.
Among the incoming freshman class at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1932, several of the boys tried out for the rowing program. The Boys in the Boat is the story of how eight of these boys bonded together and became one of the all time great racing crews in 8 man shells. So good in fact that they won the gold medal in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin under the gaze of Adolf Hitler.
Crew racing in both shells and sculls was a big sport in those days and the rivalry between the East and West Coast schools was keen. Competitions between California and Washington were hotly contested. Big races in the East, including an annual race on the upper Hudson River and the Olympic trials in Princeton, pitted the West Coast against East Coast teams. As a mark of how good the book was, I was on the edge of my seat reading about the Olympic finals and worrying Continue reading →
Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger September 1, 2015 5:25 p.m.
At the August 27, 2015, Joint City-County meeting, City Commissioner Robin Lentz brought a heavily used county sidewalk described as unsafe and in close proximity to schools to the attention of Nassau County officials. Lentz who lives near the area, is asking for a solution. The asphalt sidewalk is overgrown with shrubs and crumbling. Although repairs made in February offered slight improvement, the sidewalk continues to be a hazard. Lentz was told by a school administrator that a wheelchair Continue reading →
Florida Department of State Press Release September 1, 2015 10:00 a.m.
On August 25, 2015, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the designation of Crystal River and Fernandina Beach as Florida Main Street communities. Main Street designation offers a comprehensive strategy from the statewide Florida Main Street Program to support local revitalization and historic preservation efforts.
“As the Florida Main Street Program celebrates its 30th anniversary, I am proud to welcome Crystal River and Fernandina Beach as the two newest Main Street communities,” said Secretary Detzner. “Crystal River, known for its beautiful springs and manatee population, and Fernandina Beach, known for its stunning coastline, are an important part of Florida’s historic legacy. Both communities will be tremendous assets to Florida Main Street.”
Secretary Detzner’s designation is based on the August 6, 2015 recommendation of the six-member ad hoc Florida Main Street Advisory Committee. Organizations represented on the Advisory Committee included the Florida Division of Historical Resources, Chattahoochee Main Street, Inc., Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, 1000 Friends of Florida, Florida Redevelopment Association, and Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Continue reading →
Nassau County Sheriff’s Office
Submitted by Bill Leeper, Sheriff August 31, 2015 8:16 p.m.
The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office received several cases (8) of residential burglaries in the Bryceville area. The incidents occurred Sunday, August 16th through Friday, August 21st while residents were away from their home during the day. Their homes were broken into and several items were stolen, primarily televisions and firearms.
Deputies and Detectives searched relentlessly every day for any leads on the suspect(s). Several witnesses provided tips, such as descriptions of suspicious vehicles and people in the area. Based on intelligence developed from this investigation, deputies noticed a Continue reading →
Nassau Community Band is honored to host renowned musician, conductor and professor Dr. Marc Dickman for the fall concert series. Dr. Dickman is a founding member of the acclaimed Jazz Studies program at the University of North Florida. As a graduate of Troy State University and Bessom performing artist, his versatility on euphonium, trombone, bass-trombone and tuba in the classical and jazz styles place him in high demand in the United States.
Starting their 12th season, the Nassau Community Band has a variety of concerts planned for the fall series. St. Michael Parish Hall (October 22), Fort Clinch, Veterans Tribute (November 7), Holiday Revue with Amelia Musical Playhouse (December) and monthly performances at Savannah Grand are scheduled. The multi-generational ensemble is comprised of gifted students, amateurs, music educators and instrumental enthusiasts.
New members are invited to September rehearsals, Thursday’s at 6:00pm in the Yulee Middle School band room (85439 Miner Road). Submit questions to email@example.com or view the Facebook page.
Submitted by Leonard A. Kreger August 30, 2015 11:00 a.m.strong>
After serving for over six years on the Planning Advisory Board along with providing hundreds of volunteer hours to the City I have decided that I can make a valuable contribution to the governing of the City.
My major concern is to ensure that the City provides the basic services in an cost effective manner meeting the levels of service as outlined by the City Comprehensive Plan. These include; stormwater, sewers and streets, building maintenance, parks maintenance and safety (Police and Fire).
I am also concerned with the financial condition of the City and effective growth management.
In the past six years I have contributed to the City in the following areas. Serving on the PAB, serving on the Sustainable Fernandina Committee, Chairman of the Bike Friendly committee resulting in the Bronze Bicycle Friendly Designation to the City, Working to bring the Blueway Designation to the City, key in acquiring and implementing the Coastal Partnership Initiative Grant, design and installation of the Sea Turtle Conservancy Lighting Grant, working with the City to select and implement a Computer Maintenance Management System. I am currently working on completing a shoreline Profile Study with the St. Johns River Water Management District.
In 2013 I received the Fernandina Police Community Service Award.
In 2014 I was the Fernandina Beach Volunteer of the Year.
I am a currently a Permit Holder with the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch and a member of the FWC Coastal Wildlife Conservation Initiative and Northeast Florida Restoration Team. I am a past Board Member of Wild Amelia and served on the Nassau County Code Enforcement Board.
I retired from the Marine Corps in 1983 after 24 years of service as a Master Sergeant. Included was 19 months in combat in Vietnam where I was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V, 17 Air Medals along with other campaign awards. I also received two Navy Commendation Medals for meritorious service in other assignments.
I have 15 years of experience in facility management and construction management of energy conservation and efficiency projects with the Trane Company, Chevron Energy Solutions and Niles North High School District, Skokie, Illinois.
I have a AA Degree in General Education from Palomar College, San Marcos, California, a BA in Psychology from Chapman College, Orange, California and have completed Graduate studies at Chapman College, Chaminade University Hawaii, Rosary College, Chicago and DePaul University Chicago.
I recently accepted a Part Time Position as the Executive Director of “Keep Nassau Beautiful” a nonprofit organization. Keep Nassau Beautiful’s mission is to assist in educating citizens in ways of improving the community environment.
I am available for individual discussions or presentations to groups. To schedule or just discuss the issues call me at 904 432 8389 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Those interesting in helping in my campaign or making a campaign contribution can reach me as indicated above.
Editor’s Note: Kreger will face Clinch Kavanaugh in the Group 5 race. The Fernandina Observer offers all candidates the opportunity to publish campaign press releases. The Fernandina Observer does not endorse any candidates.
Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger August 31, 2015 1:00 a.m.
On August 27, city and county commissioners held a joint meeting in the Nassau County James S. Page Governmental Complex to discuss plans to establish an Amelia Island Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) to fund ongoing beach renourishment and other yet to be determined beach related costs. If commissioners decide to enact the MSTU, plans must be in place before January 2016.
The City of Fernandina Beach became the lead sponsor of its beach renourishment project years ago after the County declined to take the lead. Although renourishment is an expensive project, the federal government through a past Memorandum of Understanding funds almost 80% of the cost. The remaining portion is usually paid by the State at 9%, and the City and County each has provided 5½ % of the cost. Although county officials have not backed down from funding prior renourishment projects, challenging economic times produce funding uncertainty at the county level.
Camille Tharpe, senior vice president of Government Services Group, Inc presented a presentation to the joint commissions on Muncipal Services Taxing Units (MSTU) and how to implement MSTU’s funding for island wide renourishment, restoration, erosion control, and maintenance services island-wide, excluding those south end property owners involved with SAISSA.
MSTUs are funding mechanisms to support a particular municipal type service with a levy of ad valorem taxes. The tax is based on the taxable value of property. There is no need for a voter referendum to implement the MSTU. Yearly adjustments up or down can be made to meet funding needs.
Property located in the proposed MSTU district contains 13,487 parcels in the City and portions of the unincorporated island at a value of 2 billion, 584 million dollars and is comprised of 60% single family, 16 % condos, 16% vacant land, and the remainder includes miscellaneous hotels, government buildings, multiple family and institutional properties. There are 13,487 parcels in the area. According to Fernandina Beach Deputy City Manager Marshall McCrary, the parcel count within the city is 8,390, or roughly 62 percent of the included parcels.
The millage rate to raise $300,000 in funding is .01265 per $100,000. That means property accessed at $100,000 will be assessed at $12. According to Shanea Jones, budget director, the average taxable value in the proposed MSTU area is $191,000 the cost will be $24.24 per year or less than ¼ of a mill. To raise $484,000 the millage rate will be less than ¼ mill. In order to contribute $300,000 a year for renourishment costs, the MSTU must raise an addition $27,000 to cover administrative expenses for the tax collector and property appraiser, Including factoring in early tax payment discounts.
Although 10 % of the bed tax collected through the Tourism and Development Council (TDC) is restricted for the beach, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) decided to leave TDC money targeted for beaches in reserves for major projects a or storm funding. The TDC collects approximately $350,000 to $400,000 for beaches each year. Part of the funds pay for both City and SAISSA annual beach monitoring required with renourishment projects at a cost of $35,000 per year. Should the MSTU not be approved, the county has budgeted $800,000 for a portion of an upcoming renourishment project.
Why are MSTUs not collected county wide? 49.27
County Attorney Mike Mullin said property values assessed must have value that is immediately impacted by the beach. The further you are from the beach an MSTU focused on the beach is hard to justify. In answer to questions raised as to why all county taxpayers do not fund renourishment efforts since they benefit from the beach, Jones said ‘this isn’t about usage it is about property. It is [based on] what does your property gain, not what a person gains. There must be a rational relation to who you are charging and what you are charging for.”
An Alternative Beach Renourishment Plan
Toward the end of the discussion, City Manager Joe Gerrity distributed information prepared by Erik Olsen, beach renourishment project consultant, for an alternative plan for the City’s beach renourishment. Federal funds are not available this year for a beach renourishment effort, but the Army Corp of Engineers recognizes the federal government’s obligations through a Memorandum of Understanding signed years ago. (Click here for more information http://fernandinaobserver.com/2013/03/25/beach-renourishment-costs-mount-up/ .)
Every year, the Corp dredges the north end channel for the Navy and places sand on the island’s north beach. Although north beach is building up nicely, the Navy has refused to pay to place sand further south. According to Gerrity, “That is where our beaches are weak.”
This year, the Corp proposed in a contract to the Navy, that the dredged material from the channel be placed between Main Beach and the Sadler Road Seaside Park with the City, County, and State paying their share. If the contract is accepted, beach renourishment costs will be reduced. “This is a bit of good news for the city and county. This is a viable way to fund absent federal dollars.” Every five years the city and county spend 1.5 million on renourishment costs.
The millage rate for the MSTU can be adjusted up or down depending upon grants and the ability to piggy backing on channel dredging. Commissioner Leeper applauded the possibility of alternative plan noting the cost savings working with the Navy.
Len Kreger, city commission candidate, described his “somewhat reluctant” support for the special tax district because he preferred funds for beach renourishment come directly from both the city and county general funds, noting the federal and state governments pay for almost 80% of the costs. Without going into detail, he sees the MSTU as an excellent opportunity to not only look at funding renourishment but for funding other beach needs. The South Amelia Island Shore Stabilization Association remains in place and I would like to ensure that the taxing rates for both are equitable.
Mike Leary, long time resident and advocate for the enviornment, asked why we feel obligated to renourish beaches when the major goals seems to be to protect private property values. With a half a million people visiting our island Leary said visitors are not paying their fair share. We are faced with a sea level rise of 1 foot or more in 50 years which makes beach renourishment “a moot point and a waste of money.”
Andrew Curtin: After hearing the MSTU presentation, Curtin said his mind is not changed. He characterized the MSTU as an additional source of taxation. Curtin encouraged commissioners to use the 10% collected by the TDC to pay for beach renourishment. He also believes commissioners should ask voters for their approval of an MSTU before implementing the tax.
Betsy Hubin supports paying tax for beach renourishment with reservations. She believes it is a “minimal cost for maximum benefit” and that beaches deserve protection. She asked why the tax was not spread to all county residents since the “treasure in the chest belongs to everyone.” Hubin suggested there be “one deducted fund for one beach and one rule for all beaches on the island.”
City/County Commissioner Comments
County Commissioner Steve Kelly asked if collected money could be used for storm water runoff at the beach. The answer was more than likely not, but Mullin will look into it. Tharpe said that was a stretch.
City Commissioner Robin Lentz asked if it is possible to use money for rebuilding dune walkovers. Mullin said that is a possibility.
Mayor Ed Boner said beach renourishment becomes a political thing. This is a fair way to pay expenses and keep the beach the way it is now. Boner said this benefits the whole island and this is a fair and equitable way to fund. It “makes beach renourishment a non political thing that benefits the whole island.”
Commissioner Pat Gass said, “We want to make sure the ordinance is ironclade so no one can take this money and do anything else with it. People don’t trust government because government has a way of working around and using that money.”
Passage of the ordinance to support MSTU requires one reading before the County and two readings before the City. When asked who will set the MSTU rate, Jones said “the BOCC will set the annual millage as part of the budget process. Realistically they will need to consult with the City . . . since the City takes the lead on the renourishment projects. Without knowing the City’s plans, the [Board of County Commissioners] won’t know what rate is needed to ensure we are properly funding anticipated financial need.”
When asked for consensus to bring the MSTU funding forward at the City and County Commission level no objections were voiced.
Editor’s Note: Other topics brought before the joint city/county meeting will be covered in a future Fernandina Observer article.