Grammy-Winning Turtle Island Quartet To Perform April 23 at Closing Gala

Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival
Press Release
Joe Marasco, Executive Director

April 22, 2017 2:00 p.m.

Winner of multiple Grammy Awards, the Turtle Island Quartet will perform on April 23 at the Closing Gala of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival.

The 5:00 PM performance, “A Love Supreme: The Music of John Coltrane,” will start at 5:00 PM at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. Cocktails will be available at 4:30, and a Dutch treat, post-concert reception will be held at the Ritz-Carlton’s Coast restaurant. Call 904-277-1100 for reservations and indicate that you are part of the Amelia Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Uncategorized |

Coming soon: a new look for old South 3rd Street

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm

Reporter – News Analyst


Artist rendering looking south along S. 3rd Street toward Beech Street.
View of former lumberyard from City Hall parking lot.

What was once Fernandina Lumber is today a razed lot. But work may begin as early as next month on a development of 22 townhouses, complete with their own garages. The project is being developed by Artisan Homes on 1.48 acres zoned Mixed Use (MU-1). Plans have been underway for several months. Occupying most of the block lying between 2nd and 3rd Streets and bounded on the south by Beech Street, the development area is not part of the Central Business District and was unaffected by the recent density increase.

At their April 20, 2017 Monthly Meeting, the Historic District Council (HDC) of the city of Fernandina Beach gave a unanimous thumbs up to the development with some conditions:

  • Fencing be made of wood (not vinyl)
  • Shutters be made of composite or wood (not vinyl)
  • Windows be simulated divided lite (SDL)
  • Hardiplank be smooth finish
  • Entry way handrails be metal
  • 3rd Street façade of building #14 (corner of 3rd and Beech Streets) be softened to look less stark in contrast to the front facades of other units.
Artist rendering of 2nd Street facades looking south toward Beech Street

In presenting his staff report, city Preservation Planner Sal Cumella noted how the developer had addressed staff and HDC concerns raised at the conceptual approval stage of the project (see :

  • The buildings have been offset slightly to avoid a monolithic appearance.
  • Design details that mimic those on other buildings in the Historic District have been added to help soften lines and differentiate the units.
  • Different types of brick will be used from unit to unit.
  • HVAC units have been placed on roofs and are not visible from the street.
  • Garages are one story with no apartment above.

Continue reading

9 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized |

A word from City’s Administrative Services Manager Nicole Bednar

Nicole Bednar
Administrative Services Mgr
City of Fernandina Beach

April 21, 2017 1:00 a.m.

For the past ten years, I have had the privilege of working for the City of Fernandina Beach in exciting and interesting capacities. The first five years of my employment were in the City Clerk’s Office where I served as Deputy City Clerk. Currently, I work in the City Manager’s Office and serve as the Administrative Services Manager.

Through my work in the City Clerk’s Office, I learned the fundamentals of local government functions: public records retention, Sunshine Law matters, City Commission meeting agendas, minutes, and much more. This in-depth knowledge base, along with attending professional training and being mentored by outstanding professionals, assisted in developing a strong understanding of State statutes, local ordinances, as well as City policies and procedures.

In the City Manager’s Office, my roles and responsibilities are wide and diverse. The City Manager plays an integral role in the City’s daily inner workings. Accordingly, it is not unusual for my work to include assistance with every department, as well as state and federal agencies: City Commission and general staff support, budget administration, public relations, etc. I enjoy the variety of my work, and I have developed the skills necessary to participate in numerous departmental projects and activities.

One of my regular duties in the City Manager’s Office is preparing and Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized |

Suzanne Bass retires from city after 30 years of service

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 20, 2017 4:12 p.m.


Fernandina Beach Police Department Administrative Coordinator Suzanne Bass recently retired after 30 years of service with the city. She began work in March 1987 as a clerk-typist and received subsequent promotions to the positions of Executive Secretary, Administrative Specialist and finally as Administrative Coordinator.

Suzanne Bass (l) receives retirement plaque from Fernandina Beach Mayor Robin Lentz.

Mayor Robin Lentz recognized Bass via official city proclamation delivered at the April 18, 2017 Fernandina Beach City Commission Meeting. The proclamation cited Bass for her professionalism, integrity and “legendary compassion.”

The proclamation called Bass “The Keeper of All Knowledge and Oracle to the Chief.” She was twice recognized as the Police Department’s Civilian Employee of the Year. For more than thirty years Ms. Bass maintained sensitive hiring documents, mandatory training records, personnel files, budget records, audits and reviews, state and federal reports, payroll and benefit documents, official correspondence, subpoena calendars, health care and much more.

In accepting the proclamation Bass said, “I just wanted to thank the city for letting me have the wonderful opportunity of working for the city for 30 years. My husband retired [from the city], my sister retired, and my brother-in-law retired, and now I am retiring. We figured the other day that there is probably about 120 years of city service from our family. I love the Fernandina Beach Police Department, and I love the employees. It’s been a pleasure, but it is time to leave. Thank you very much.”

Fernandina Beach Police Chief Jim Hurley reflects on Suzanne Bass’ (l) service as Bass and Mayor Robin Lentz look on.

Following a round of applause, Fernandina Beach Police Chief Jim Hurley stepped to the podium. “We’ve had retirement luncheons and some get-togethers with Suzanne over the past few weeks,” Hurley said, “and it’s been kind of sad to see her go. She’s been perhaps the most loyal, hardest working employee that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She cares so much for our agency and the city. She’s just a remarkable person, and we appreciate her so much. Tough shoes to fill for her replacement. We are very thankful for her service.”

Following the chief’s remarks, Bass received another round of applause from the audience.

Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

Leave a comment | Posted in Uncategorized |

Horses and people and beaches:  oh my!

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 20, 2017 3:14 p.m.


Horseback riding on island beaches has a long tradition and many loyal supporters.  But increasingly Fernandina Beach City Commissioners (FBCC) are fielding complaints from beachgoers who object to what the horses leave behind.  While the tourism industry promotes scenes like this:

 What many beachgoers are finding to their consternation is this:


At the urging of City Commissioner Roy Smith, the FBCC discussed what seems to be another chapter in the never-ending saga of animal control on city beaches.  Smith told his fellow commissioners, “We’ve got to stop talking about this problem and fix it.”  He suggested that the city require that each horse on city beaches wear a “diaper bag” to collect its waste, because the current situation makes city beaches “look terrible.”

Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized |

North Florida Land Trust is commemorating Earth Day with a clean-up on Big Talbot Island

NFLT Media Release
April 20, 2017 3:46 p.m.


North Florida Land Trust will be spending Earth Day cleaning up a stretch of road on Big Talbot Island. NFLT is asking the public to join them on Saturday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to noon to clean up the section of highway to prevent trash from entering the state park and the waterways.

NFLT adopted the three-mile segment of Heckscher Drive/A1A between Houston Avenue and the Nassau Sound Bridge through the Florida Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway Litter Removal Program. To sign up to help, visit or contact Genevieve Fletcher at or (904) 479-1967.

It is recommended that volunteers wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, sunscreen and bug spray. NFLT will provide safety vest and will host a safety briefing prior to the clean-up. Volunteers are asked to bring a reusable water bottle and water refills will be provided. Lunch will be served after the clean-up at NFLT’s Milam House on Big Talbot Island.

About North Florida Land Trust

North Florida Land Trust is a non-profit organization who serves as a champion of environmental protection primarily in Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns counties. NFLT was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including land at Big Talbot Island, the River Branch Preserve, Pumpkin Hill State Park, Moccasin Slough, along the St. Mary’s River and other valued natural areas in Northeast Florida.  NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with private landowners and other public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations.  For more information, visit

Leave a comment | Posted in Uncategorized |

Fernandina Beach downtown density increase approved 4-1

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 19, 2017 8:45 p.m.


After more than ten years of talking about the need to increase density in the Central Business District, it finally happened Tuesday night as the Fernandina Beach City Commission voted 4-1 to approve Ordinance 2017-02 on Second Reading during their second April 2017 Regular Meeting. City Hall Commission Chambers were packed with both proponents and opponents to the change, which will now allow two residential units–one more than currently allowed– to be built over Centre Street commercial buildings.

The FBCC devoted about 90 minutes of their 3-hour meeting to this item. Senior City Planner Kelly Gibson opened the discussion with a slide presentation to provide information to both commissioners and audience members on the scope and impact of the proposed changes.

Twenty speakers addressed the commissioners during the public hearing. Half of them fully supported the change, five claimed to support the change if the FBCC would first address the downtown parking issues, and the remaining five opposed the change.

When the final vote was taken, only Vice Mayor Len Kreger voted in opposition. Kreger explained that his vote was on procedural matters only, not the actual change.   He reminded commissioners that in some cases multiple public meetings have been held prior to FBCC consideration of land use changes. He cited the changes for the 8th Street Corridor, where a vote followed meetings held over two years, as example. Other commissioners disagreed, citing complaints and concerns that have been raised about the need to increase downtown density over more than ten years.

At the end of the meeting, City Manager Dale Martin said that by passing this ordinance, the commissioners have now completed all but one of the goals they collectively set at their 2016 goal setting session. The one remaining: opening the Alachua Street rail crossing.

Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized |

FDOT to host public workshop on I-95 Express Lanes between J. Turner Butler Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard

FDOT Media Release
April 19, 2017 1:00 p.m.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will host a public workshop ahead of a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study on I-95 Express Lanes from J. Turner Butler (JTB) to Atlantic Boulevard.

The workshop will be Wednesday, April 26 at the Jacksonville Marriott, 4670 Salisbury Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32256. The workshop will be an “Open House” format and interested parties may drop in anytime from 4:00-6:30 p.m., no formal presentation will be provided.

This segment of I-95 experiences peak period congestion due to demand that exceeds the roadway’s capacity. With expectations of continued traffic congestion, the purpose of this PD&E study is to evaluate the addition of Express Lanes in order to provide capacity improvements and relieve congestion. Express Lanes are an innovative concept to manage traffic congestion and provide choices for motorists. These additional lanes will provide more capacity in areas where traffic congestion is a concern. The study will also examine all interchanges regarding safety and operational improvements.

Express Lanes are known as an “expressway within an expressway” where Express Lanes are separated from general use lanes. The toll rate for express lanes will vary depending on the amount of traffic within the express lanes. Generally, fewer cars using the lanes means a less expensive toll. Dynamic message signs show the current toll rate. Due to electronic tolling cars are not required to stop to pay the toll.

Two sets of Express Lanes are already under construction in Jacksonville. The first set, on I-295 between the Buckman Bridge and I-95 is scheduled to open by the end of this year. The second set, on I-295 between State Road 9B and JTB, is scheduled to open in mid-2019.

To learn more about the Express Lanes, visit:

Leave a comment | Posted in Uncategorized |

Island Hopper to offer extended hours during Shrimp Festival

Council on Aging
Submitted by Melanie Ferreira
Marketing & Communications
April 19, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Driver Dan and the Island Hopper.

Nassau Transit’s Island Hopper bus service will offer extended hours of operation during the 54th Annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival May 5 – 7. The Island Hopper runs a continuous loop around the northern half of Amelia Island every Thursday through Monday with eight designated stops: Fernandina Beach City Hall, Central Park, Atlantic Avenue Rec Center, Main Beach, Seaside Park, Amelia Plaza Walmart, Barnabas Center, Martin Luther King Center, and back to City Hall.

During the Shrimp Festival the bus will continue its usual route, but will provide service from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, May 5th and Saturday, May 6thand from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday May 7th. Locals and festival goers can also “hop on and hop off” anywhere Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Uncategorized |

New Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Program in Nassau County

Nassau Alcohol Crime Drug Abatement Coalition
Stephanie Basey
Director of Youth Mental Health
First Aid Project Aware
April 19, 2017 11:00 a.m.

NACDAC is excited to announce their new adult Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Program.

Anyone who is struggling with substance use is encouraged to get the help they need as soon as possible. If you or a loved one needs help, regardless of your ability to play, please contact 904-277-3699 to Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Uncategorized |