Airport Terminal update – It’s starting to look like a plane!

Photos by Chris Whelan
February 24, 2018 10:13 a.m.

Construction on the new Fernandina Municipal Airport Terminal is moving forward. According to previous reporting by Suanne Z. Thamm, the design is to “suggest an F4U Corsair, which flew out of the Fernandina Beach Airport when it was a Navy facility in the 1940’s.”

One photo shows a recent completed foundation that will hold up the tail. Our thanks to photographer Chris Whelan for sending us these recent photos of the progress.

Editor’s Note: Chris Whelan joined the United States Navy straight out of college in 1975 and served for 22 years as a Navy Aerographer’s Mate – the Navy’s meteorologists and oceanographers. Chris earned the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Broadcast Seal of Approval in 1994 and was an on-air meteorologist for the local television station WTLV starting in 1986 until he retired in 2004. Chris came to our island in 1991 and spends his time photographing the sights of our wonderful island, collecting and restoring vintage cameras, and being involved with local environmental issues, and enjoying his family. We thank Chris for his contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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Board of County Commissioners issues statement – Bean offers support

Board of County Commission
Press Release
February 24, 2018 9:50 a.m.

Official Statement

For almost a decade, the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners has worked with Raydient Places + Properties (the current name for Rayonier Inc.’s development subsidiary) in a public-private partnership to create an approximate 24,000 acre sector plan (commonly known as the ENCPA) centrally located in Nassau County. This support has included, but not limited to, adopting a master land use plan, obtaining state approval of the sector plan, working on solutions for public roads, such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and mobility fees, and supporting the creation of the East Nassau Stewardship District through local legislation (HB 1075 approved last year). Unfortunately, the county was recently alerted that Raydient (through a large business agency named Associated Industries of Florida headquartered in Tallahassee), unilaterally filed an amendment to Senate Bill 324 and House Bill 697 on January 26th, 2018 that provides Raydient a way out of their commitments to fund public facilities as was agreed upon in HB 1075.

During many public meetings to establish the East Nassau Stewardship District, Raydient provided documents and ensured the Board (as well as the public) that the growth would Continue reading

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NFLT hosting an evening paddle along the Guana River Feb. 27

North Florida Land Trust
February 23, 2018

Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 22, 2018 – North Florida Land Trust is hosting an evening paddle along the Guana River on Feb. 27 to give participants a chance to see the unique landscapes and wildlife that inhabit the area. Kayakers will take off from the North Guana Outpost at 4:30 p.m. and will paddle through the southern portion of the Guana River Preserve and into the Guana River Wildlife Management Area.

“This is a beautiful part of Northeast Florida and home to natural habitats and wildlife indicative of Florida,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Paddlers could see a variety of wildlife including turtles, otters, herons, egrets and waterfowl. Natural habitats, like this, are what we work to preserve on a daily basis.”

Those interested in participating in the launch are asked to sign up online at If you need to rent a kayak, it is $20 for a single kayak or $25 for a tandem kayak. If you bring your own kayak, the paddle is free, but you must still register for the event due to a limited group size. Contact Emily Dunn at for more information.

North Guana Outpost is located at 4415 Mickler Rd., Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. The paddle will begin at 4:30 p.m. and end around sunset. Participants are asked to arrive 15 minutes early for check-in and a safety briefing. NFLT recommends wearing long sleeves, clothes/shoes that you won’t mind getting wet, and recommends bringing bug spray and a reusable water bottle.

About North Florida Land Trust

North Florida Land Trust is a non-profit organization who serves as a champion of land conservation 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, 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

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Moving forward [?] on Alachua Crossing and Front Street

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 23, 2018 4:49 p.m.


Toward the end of the February 20, 2018 Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) Regular Meeting, Commissioner Chip Ross reported on a recent meeting with FDOT and railroad Genesee & Wyoming Railroad officials in Jacksonville concerning the potential opening of the Alachua Crossing. Ross recapped questions that arose during the meeting, which included City Manager Dale Martin, City Attorney Tammi Bach and city lobbyist Arthur I. “Buddy” Jacobs.

Site of proposed Alachua rail crossing

Ross proceeded to identify the following areas that he believed needed to be addressed before the city could move forward with the opening:

  • Railroad wanted engineering drawings and then would decide if acceptable
  • Who has authority to negotiate?
  • Is there enough space to put a vehicular crossing at Alachua?
  • Does the railroad want the entire area fenced?
  • Would the railroad or FDOT contribute financially to the project?
  • Ordinance of 1886
[which Ross believes commits railroad to pay for improvements]
  • How would the City’s other goals impact the railroad?
  • Does FDOT have to approve a pedestrian railroad crossing?
Commissioner Chip Ross

Ross said, “I’d like discussion tonight as to where do we go. We’ve been talking about [opening the Alachua crossing] since 1978. We need to go forward with an engineer that the railroad would approve to let us know if we can even fit a crossing there; if we can, do streets need to be one way or can they remain two way. I want to make sure before the staff puts a lot of time into this that we still want to go forward, depending of course on what the price is, with vehicular or pedestrian crossing at Alachua Street.”

Commissioner Roy Smith was recognized for a question before Ross completed his slide presentation. Smith said, “I don’t believe that we as commissioners should be going to these meetings like this. With the questions asked, you say the city asked these questions. I got reports back after the meeting that you asked these questions. You shouldn’t unilaterally go to a meeting and ‘represent the commission’ there – telling people to give them this or that. We should not be attending these meetings. That stuff comes back to us.” Continue reading

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The changing face of downtown Atlantic Avenue

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 23, 2018 – 2:30 p.m.


It appears that the inventory of downtown Fernandina Beach residences is about to grow substantially with just one new project in the works.   At the February 22, 2018 Technical Review Committee (TRC) meeting, representatives of an as yet unnamed developer sought conceptual approval for a 4-story mixed use commercial and residential structure planned for 1015 Atlantic Avenue. This site, which combines two C-3 parcels on the northwest corner of Atlantic Avenue and N. 11th Street, is slated for a building that would be 45 feet in height with retail on the ground floor and 27 condo units on the three upper floors of the building.

On the Nassau County Property Appraiser’s website, the owner of the larger lot is still listed as Fernandina Food Mart #2, Inc. Owner of the smaller lot is listed as I.P. Holdings Group, LLC.

1015 Atlantic Avenue

A former convenience store/gas station currently occupies the Atlantic Avenue side of the site; a vacant parcel lies immediately to the north of that property. Both of these parcels are zoned Central Business District (C-3), meaning that there are no parking requirements and there is a 45-foot height limit. In this zoning district buildings may be constructed lot line to lot line. The parcels lie outside the Historic District, so there is no review required for architectural design. Continue reading

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Senate Bill 324 – Nassau County voices heard “loud and clear”

By Susan Hardee Steger
February 23, 2018 8:50 a.m.

County Manager Shanea Jones

The Florida State Senate Committee “temporarily postponed” a vote on the proposed SB 324 following Senator Aaron Bean’s last minute amendment to the bill (bill amendment details will be posted when they are received). The matter has been continued to Tuesday, February 27th.

When asked to comment, County Manager Shanea Jones said, ” . . . Senator Bean’s amendment, the work of the Board of County Commissioners and contact coming from residents at home got the attention of the Senate members and they hear Nassau County loud and clear!

Nassau County officials are urging residents to continue emailing Senate Appropriations Committee members and encouraging members to only approve the bill if it will “protect Nassau County and require Raydient to uphold their previous agreement to provide recreational facilities to accommodate growth that will occur from their development, the East Nassau Community Continue reading

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Update on proposed Senate Bill 324

Nassau County Insider
February 23, 2018 6:50 a.m.
Update on Proposed Senate Bill 324

The Senate Appropriations Committee has temporarily postponed their vote on proposed SB 324. The matter has been continued to Tuesday, February 27th. County staff urges you to continue emailing the members of the Appropriations Committee and urge them not to approve this Bill unless changes are made that will protect Nassau County and require Raydient to uphold thei agreement to provide recreational facilities to accommodate growth that will occur from their development, the East Nassau Community Planning Area (ENCPA). Below is contact info for the members:

Senator Bradley:
Senator Flores:
Senator Baxley:
Senator Bean:
Senator Benacquisto:
Senator Book:
Senator Bracy:
Senator Brandes:
Senator Braynon:
Senator Gainer:
Senator Galvano:
Senator Gibson:
Senator Grimsley:
Senator Montford:
Senator Passidomo:
Senator Powell:
Senator Simmons:
Senator Simpson:
Senator Stargel:
Senator Stewart;

The Board of County Commissioners is holding a special meeting tomorrow, Friday, February 23rd, at 4:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Commission Chambers located at 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee, FL, 32097. The public is welcome to attend. The meeting may also be viewed live by visiting our website and clicking the link for “live board meetings”.

We will continue to share information as it is received.

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Rumble on Main Street

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 22, 2018 6:34 p.m.


Arlene Fillkoff

Fernandina Beach Main Street Interim Executive Director Arlene Filkoff delivered a brief update to the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at the February 20, 2018 FBCC Regular Meeting. Her report was brief, as it followed a workshop held with the FBCC just the previous week. She reported that Main Street was engaged in preplanning discussions for improvements in downtown landscaping, trees, sidewalks and lighting. She noted the interdependency of some of these activities and the importance of proper sequencing to avoid having to redo work. Key to this is the opportunity to link some of the projects to other city work, such as stormwater repair and mitigation.

“We are going to have to have a 4-dimensional plan to show us how all of this work can be done at the same time, while keeping in mind what we can afford and any negative impact on downtown businesses,” Filkoff said.

During Public Input, former city commissioner Charlie Corbett, used his three-minutes to raise a series of questions about the Main Street program, its record keeping, financial accountability and use of city staff to chair Main Street Councils.

Corbett first asked why three city staffers, paid by taxpayers, were chairing 3 of the 4 Main Street Councils, when originally the plan was to have this work done by volunteers. “Shouldn’t Main Street pay for them?” he asked. Continue reading

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Raydient issues press release to “Set the Record Straight”

Editor’s Note:  With yesterday’s post of the call to action from officials in Nassau County, we wrote in our editor’s comment, ” Before we cover a story, we want to know the story.”  We still have work to do to begin to separate the wheat from the chaff,  but after receiving a press release  from Raydient giving us a glimpse of their position on the controversy between the Board of County Commissioners and Raydient, we decided to share  this information with our readers.  

Press Release
Tiffany Wilson
Manager, Marketing & Communications
February 22, 2018 10:42 a.m.

A lot has been said about us recently by Nassau County staff and officials, and unfortunately a lot of it is untrue. We wanted to set the record straight with the facts below. I am also attaching a copy of the much-talked-about Senate Bill 324* in case you haven’t yet seen it. We welcome the opportunity to discuss any of this further with you.

[To view bill click here and then click on (highlighted in blue,) CS-SB/324 Substitute, click on “841860 – Proposed Committee Substitute Approximations, Web Page PDF]

  • According to Nassau County’s policies, developers are required to contribute land for public community and regional parks and builders are required to pay recreational impact fees for park facilities to accommodate for the people that purchase in their communities.
  • The ENCPA includes plans to allocate land for parks and recreation. At build out, we will have contributed 556 acres for public regional parks and 186 acres for community parks. Roughly 50% of the 24,000-acre ENCPA, including about 3,850 upland acres, will be set aside in a Conservation Habitat Network. The 3,850 acres alone is five times what the county’s policies require in their Comprehensive Plan.
  • Future residents of the ENCPA will be County taxpayers as well. It was never envisioned that the County could wash their hands of the responsibility to provide county services to these taxpayers.
  • Today there are zero residents in Wildlight and the ENCPA, so we are not putting any pressure on the county’s current parks and recreation needs.
  • Since 2016, we have been offering to the county to pay for a Civic Facilities Study, which includes parks and recreation, to determine what needs will be generated by the development of the ENCPA.
  • We believe the county is threatening to place an inequitable burden on our company by shifting the costs associated with growth outside the ENCPA onto Raydient and residents inside the ENCPA. We need to protect our company’s interests and expect to be treated fairly. We expect Nassau County’s policies to be enforced in the same way to all developers and landowners. 

A lot of the press coverage has included a number of quotes from the BOCC’s Feb. 12 meeting.  [Click here for meeting video.] Here are a few quotes from that meeting that stood out to us, along with the timestamp of when they were said in the meeting:

“No one’s addressing the recreation. We aren’t. We’re not addressing the traffic. We don’t fund anything. We’re at a bare minimum, and when you hear what we have in the CIP funds, there is none.” – Pat Edwards, 58:28 

“…everybody understood the major recreation, public and otherwise, was destined to go inside the ENCPA. [The County doesn’t] have any — you have one 10-acre parcel down 107, but there are no other big parcels to handle the number of parks that are necessary as you move forward.” – Mike Mullin, 26:00

“I don’t even know what the total recreational pieces are, and I definitely don’t know what that cost. So without having that complete picture, I can’t assist them into coming up with something that works for both sides of the partnership.” – Shanea Jones, 46:45

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City and Corps in stand off over permit to repair marina

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 22, 2018 – 7:30 a.m.


Just when we thought the city was on track to get the marina back up and running the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to throw in a monkey wrench.

Photo taken immediately following Matthew’s visit in October 2016.

In October 2016, the City of Fernandina Beach Marina sustained substantial damage as a result of Hurricane Matthew.  In the interim some repairs were made, but the most critical (and most expensive) repairs awaited approval and reimbursement from FEMA.

The City finally got FEMA to release funds for the repair of the southern attenuator (also referred to as Dock 1) and the associated dockhouse. The City Commission approved on January 12, 2018, a proposal from Applied Technology Management (ATM), Inc. ($34,540) to prepare a design build criteria package for the purpose of entering into a design-build contract via RFQ to repair the damaged facilities. And on February 20, 2018, the City Commission unanimously approved an additional ATM service ($19,460) for project bidding and evaluation of the bids received.

It seemed like finally the city would be able, with ATM’s assistance, to start looking at advertising the construction job and awarding a contract to a design-build firm to get the marina back in working order.

Here’s where the Army Corps of Engineers comes in.

Continue reading

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