Weekly comments from Dale Martin

Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach, FL
July 19, 2019 12:00 p.m.

City Manager Dale Martin

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) released survey results for its Form of Government survey (July, 2019). According to the survey overview, “the survey has been conducted nine times since 1974 and is the most comprehensive resource available on form of government, provisions for referenda or recall, terms of office, mayoral powers, and other data pertaining to the structure of local government in the United States.” In other words, for local government junkies, this is interesting stuff!

The survey was distributed to the clerks of nearly 13,000 municipal governments in the ICMA database. An online response option was offered in addition to the mailed survey. A little over 4,100 surveys were returned for a 32.2% response rate.

The roughly one-third response rate was somewhat evenly distributed among responding municipalities population: the highest response rate was 40% from smaller communities (under 2,500); the lowest, 22.7% of communities sized 250,000-499,999. For communities the size of Fernandina Beach (10,000-24,999), the response rate was 33.1%. By region, the response rate again similarly distributed, from a low of 22.6% (Middle Atlantic) to a high of 43.1% (South Atlantic).

The results, when compared to Fernandina Beach’s form of government, indicate that our community functions in most ways as do the governments of most other Continue reading

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Amelia Bluff Hearing Day 3: Notes

By Adam Kaufman
Legal Analyst
July 18, 2019 10:41 p.m.

The Amelia Bluff hearing concluded Wednesday evening July 17.

The Day was devoted to testimony of additional witnesses for the City of Fernandina Beach (City) and the intervenor, Amelia Bluff, LLC. (Amelia Bluff).

Attorney Robert C. Apgar cross examines Brian Teeple former CEO Northeast Florida Regional Council.

Restating the facts:

Amelia Tree Conservancy (ATC) and the Sierra Club (Sierra) are challenging whether the Small Scale Future Land Use Map (FLUM) Amendment to the City’s Comprehensive Plan with regard to 6.4 acres on the Amelia Bluff site is in compliance with Florida statutes.

The Amendment changes the designation of those 6.4 acres to Low Density Residential. The 6.4 acres were part of 11.07 acres purchased from the School District that was designated Conservation. 3.76 acres of the purchase are jurisdictional wetlands, and were conveyed to the City. 0.917 acres were dedicated for a right-of-way connection between Hickory Street and Florida Department of Transportation property.

The 6.4 acres are part of the 11.71 acre Amelia Bluff site, which includes 5.31 acres of land already designated Low Density Residential, where there is proposed construction of a 30 dwelling subdivision.

There are no jurisdictional wetlands on the 6.4 acres in question or the subdivision as a whole.

The proposed subdivision is bordered on the East by 25 foot buffers and is approximately 300 feet from Egans Creek. Egans Creek is the border of the Egans Creek Greenway.

The St. Johns River Water Management District issued Amelia Bluff an Environmental Resources Permit for the proposed subdivision.

Small Scale Amendments apply to 10 acres or fewer. The change must maintain internal consistency between elements of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. A Plan amendment must be supported by relevant data and analysis.

A Small Scale Amendment, by statute, is to be determined to be in compliance, if the City’s determination is “fairly debatable.” If the decision is reasonably subject to disagreement, it is “fairly debatable.”

ACT and Sierra claim the Amendment “involves more than 10 acres”: the 11.71 acres of the subdivision and, in the alternative, that the Amendment is internally inconsistent with City’s Comprehensive Plan.

Recommended Order

Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early

The parties have 10 days after receipt of the transcript of the hearing to file briefs. Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early indicated his Recommended Order would be filed and issued 20 days thereafter.

If the Amendment is found to be in compliance, the Recommended Order goes to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). DEO has 30 days after it receives the Recommended Order to issue a final order or send the matter to the Administrative Commission if DEO thinks the Amendment is not in compliance.

If the Amendment is found not to be in compliance, the recommended order goes directly to the Administration Commission, which has 90 days after it receives the recommended order to issue a final order.

Day 3

Judge Early confirmed his statement, made the second day of the hearing, concerning the relevance of the claimed “scrivener’s error” with respect to the conservation designation of the 11.07 acres of former School District property.

Noting he is bound by Section 163.3177 of Florida Statutes as to the required elements of a comprehensive plan and its amendments, he stated that “how we got to that designation is beyond my jurisdiction.”

Amelia Bluff

The City’s first witness was Jacob Platt, its Senior Planner. Platt was Chair of the City’s Technical Review Committee when it reviewed the Amelia Bluff project.

Platt was questioned about the City’s Tree Ordinance, the buffer at the Amelia Bluff site and “consistency” of the Amelia Bluff project with residential developments on Citrona Drive, including Shell Cove. He testified that he was instrumental in identifying trees on the Amelia Bluff site for protection. He was challenged on cross examination with regard to current protection of the trees and the buffer’s native vegetation. He was asked, who is now or in the future responsible for their protection.

The City’s Tree Ordinance prohibits removal of trees with a diameter greater than 5 inches at breast height and requires the planting of trees and/or the payment of fines in mitigation. Petitioners have claimed that trees are no longer marked for protection and others have been injured.

Platt ultimately answered, Code Enforcement.

Andre Desilet, the City’s Stormwater Director was next to testify.

Desilet testified as to proposed stormwater treatment at the project site. He called attention to the City’s requirement that the water treatment at the Amelia Bluff site received approval from the St. Johns Water Management District, as well as, to the soil studies and engineering reports that were required.

Nick Gillette, of Gillette and Associates, testifies.

Nick Gillette, of Gillette and Associates, Amelia Bluff’s project engineer, was the following witness.

Gillette testified as to the integrity of the stormwater system and the placement of its two connected ponds, one smaller than the other. He referenced the topographic, geotechnical, soil and tree surveys that had been completed. Gillette stated that the water discharge from the site would not be demonstrably different than it is currently. He testified that the system exceeded standards.

Gillette testified as to the appropriateness of the 25 foot buffer. He also testified as to the language required by the St. Johns Water District that will be incorporated in homeowners’ documents that would ensure environmental protection.

On cross examination, Gillette was pressed as to the appropriateness of the stormwater system design. Finally causing Judge Early to suggest to the Petitioners, that he was “not here to redesign” that system.

Attorney for the petitioners question Lee Gerald, of LG2 Environmental Solutions.

Lee Gerald, of LG2 Environmental Solutions, who holds a Masters Degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Systems, was accepted as an expert in environmental science and wetland ecology.

Gerald, who made site visits to the project property, testified that there would be no adverse effect as a consequence of the Amelia Bluff project, as designed, to the buffer, wetlands, Egans Creek, and to the Greenway beyond. Gerald challenged whether “Maritime Forest” was a classification that is used with precision. He indicated that it is the Maritime Hammock Forest that is imperiled.

Gerald also testified that LG2 completed a wildlife study that was submitted to the City. The study found no adverse effect as a result of the Amelia Bluff development.

The Comprehensive Plan

Brian Teeple, the former CEO of the Northeast Florida Regional Council

Brian Teeple, the former CEO of the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NFRC), and American Institute Certified Planner, was accepted as a land planning and comprehensive planning expert. He testified on behalf of Amelia Bluff.

Teeple testified that he had, over his 33 years at NFRC, participated in the development of some 1600 Comprehensive Plans and over 600 small scale amendments. He indicated the NFRC had assisted the City of Fernandina Beach in the past.

Teeple noted that the City has some 872 policies in its Comprehensive Plan. He observed, with respect to a small scale amendment, that when someone looks for internal consistency between elements of a comprehensive plan, you cannot “nit pic.”

Teeple testified that he reviewed all materials, data and analysis with regard to the small scale amendment at issue and found it to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and in compliance with Florida statute.

He rejected the Petitioners’ claim that the amendment had to be precluded as “small scale” because it applied to a portion of a site plan that was over 10 acres. He suggested that has never occurred in his experience.

Teeple found pivotal the transfer of the 3.7 acres of wetlands, in perpetuity, to the City for conservation and viewed the City’s actions with regard to site approval that protected certain trees and ensured water quality significant.

Petitioners questioned Teeple with regard to a series of policies in the City’s comprehensive plan. As to those policies that applied to conservation, water quality, protection of wet lands, preservation of native vegetation, and forested areas, Teeple asserted that the Amendment was in compliance and consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

Toward the conclusion of Teeple’s testimony, there was a back and forth debate about Policy 6.05.01: “The City shall continue to include conservation areas on the FLUM.”

Petitioners’ arguing that this policy should prohibit any alteration of the FLUM with regard to areas designated conservation. Teeple suggesting that no policy statement is that absolute.

The End

At the end of the hearing there was an interchange about whether the Amelia Bluff site was “adjacent to,” “abutted,” or “bordered” the Egans Creek Greenway. One attorney googled Merriam Webster and showed a definition on his phone to Judge Early. Early suggested he would consult his own dictionary when drafting his Recommended Order.

From my home, the Greenway is a little more than “over yonder,” but not quite as far as “you can’t get there from here.”

It was a long three days.

To read “Amelia Bluff – A Primer” click here.

To read “Amelia Bluff Day 1 – Notes” click here.

To read “Amelia Bluff Day 2: Notes” click here.

Editor’s Note: Adam Kaufman, has been General Counsel, labor negotiator, and lobbyist for the Rochester City School; he was appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo as Counsel, Associate Director and First Deputy Attorney General to a New York State Special Commission; he served as an Administrative Law Judge, mediator and Regional Director of the New York State Public Employment Relations Board; now retired, for the last 13 years he was a labor arbitrator and mediator. A graduate of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, he is a city resident.

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FSCJ to host “Form Your Future Jump-Start to College Event”

Florida State College Jacksonville
Press Release
July 18, 2019 2:00 p.m.

WHAT: Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), in partnership with the University of North Florida, Duval County Public Schools, Nassau County School District, Year Up Jacksonville, City Year Jacksonville and JAXUSA Partnership, will host Form Your Future, a free event designed to help high school juniors and seniors get a head start in preparing for college.

Form Your Future, an Earn Up initiative, provides all incoming students and/or their parents/guardians with in-person, admissions and financial aid guidance as they prepare for the transition to college.

Featured topics include:

· Financial Aid Resources: Live demos on how to use FAFSA4caster to estimate financial aid eligibility and Financial Aid Television (FATV) for video tutorials on topics Continue reading

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Fernandina Beach welcomes FIND grants for Marina

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 18, 2019 11:00 a.m.

FIND Commissioner Lynn Williams (l) presents grant check to Fernandina Beach Mayor John Miller

Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) Commissioner Mr. Lynn Williams presented a check in the amount of $351,389 to the city of Fernandina Beach for Marina dredging and Marina repair. This check represents a 50% cost share.  Mayor John Miller accepted the ceremonial check and expressed city appreciation at the July 16, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission.

Williams explained that FIND’s mission is to keep the Inland Waterway navigational.  To that end, it spends about $30M each year on dredging projects.  Since 2006, FIND has spent around $26M on keeping the waterway open, Marina dredging and dock repairs.  He credited Marina Manager Joe Springer and Grants Administrator Lorelei Jacobs for doing the work that resulted in the grant awards.

Williams anticipates another FIND grant award of $200K this fall to assist in rehabilitating the City Marina.

City Commissioner Chip Ross said that Williams deserves a pat on the back because he has been instrumental in securing the FIND grants for the city over the years.  He also cited Williams’ efforts to assist the city in disposing of dredge materials over recent months.

Members of the audience applauded Williams’ efforts.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’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.

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Front Porch Beaders donate another $1000 to local non-profit

Take Stock in Children
Press Release
July 18, 2019 10:00 a.m.

Representatives of the “Front Porch Beads” group present a check for $1000 to Dee Torre Kaufman, Chairman of the Board of local charity Take Stock In Children.

The Front Porch Beaders started gathering on a local front porch last year to create bracelets to sell for charity. These days, they also get together at Story & Song (the delightful local bookstore bistro just off 14th Street, pictured here), when the weather isn’t cooperating.

The bracelets and other items, such as earrings, wineglass charms, and eyeglass retainers, are sold at Story & Song by owners Mark and Donna Paz Kaufman. They are also periodically donated for silent auctions held by Take Stock In Children, Joy to the Children, Give a Heart, and the Two Foundation. The group have also started taking beads for sessions at Council on Aging here in Fernandina Beach.

In the beginning, beaders started by making one bracelet for themselves and a second, just like it, to donate. Now many of them come just to enjoy the company and chat of their fellow beaders and the pleasure of making something for a good cause.

This check to Take Stock In Children is the second financial donation this year. The first check was presented to Micah’s Place back in March. The group is well on its way to their next check, which is destined to go to Starting Point in Yulee. (The beaders vote on each charity.)

Front Porch Beads is led by Fran Peters, who has a lot of beads and always welcomes more, if you have some you don’t want! You can contact her to make a donation or to join the group at (408) 230-5603.

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BOCC discusses “Growth Trends Report for 2019” during July 17 meeting

By Cindy Jackson
Reporter
July 17, 2019 1:00 a.m.

 

Taco Pope, Assistant County Manager was the first to speak at the July 17, 2019 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, presenting a summary of the Growth Trends Report for 2019, noting that Nassau County is “a community in transition . . . with new people, new ideas, new demands, new expectations and new opportunities.”

While briefly acknowledging that some may not be happy with the rate of growth, Pope maintains “we [here in Nassau County] are lucky, as we are still ahead of the curve,” compared to some neighboring counties, and emphasized that we can “shape the future of our community.”

Referencing the Vision 2032 report, (available online in its entirety at https://www.nassaucountyfl.com/DocumentCenter/View/18567/2019-Growth-Trends-Report-7-5-19-FINAL-), Pope outlined the twelve tools the county uses to “embrace the opportunity, appreciate the challenge, be open to innovation, and strive to maintain proper perspective,” as explained in that report.

Those tools include:

• A fiscal analysis
• The Western Nassau Visioning Plan
• SR 200/AIA Corridor Design Plan
• Recreation Planning
• An Affordable Housing Needs Assessment
• A Mobility Plan
• A Development Review Study
• A Civic Facilities Study (on hold at this time)
• A Capital Maintenance and Planning Program
• A Multi-Year Staffing Plan
• A Fleet Replacement Program
• A Structurally Balanced Budget
• The William Burgess Context and Connectivity Blueprint
• School Planning
• Joint Planning with Incorporated Municipalities

A number of upcoming workshops are scheduled to provide commissioners and the Continue reading

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FBCC taking no action to restrict beach parking or approve lease changes for Amelia River Golf Course

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 17, 2019 – 1:45 p.m.

Many people arrived at the July 16, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) prepared for long, drawn out discussions and votes on two controversial topics:  beach parking and the car-centric project previously proposed for airport land currently leased by Amelia River Golf Course.  To their surprise, bafflement and relief, neither project had been included on the meeting’s agenda, despite earlier announcements to the contrary.

City Manager Dale Martin began the meeting by addressing these items at Mayor John Miller’s request.

Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin

With respect to the beach parking issue, Martin read an email that he had sent earlier to a woman asking to be able to make a presentation on the topic.  In the email he indicated that he  was speaking for himself but copying Commissioners to allow them to overrule his decision, if they so desired.

He read from parts of the ordinance which said that the current parameters of beach parking could not be reduced by the FBCC without first considering results of a study.

“At this time,” Martin read, “I do not believe that a majority or any commissioner wishes to reduce the designated parking area [at the Sadler Road Beach Access].  Without such interest or support any study is moot.  I do not foresee any further action by the City Commission to reduce or eliminate beach parking at Sadler Road/Seaside Park unless unanticipated events or behavior warrant such consideration.  The Commission may, however, explore better ways to manage beach parking there but not reducing or eliminating it.  If my perception of the City Commission is wrong, I will most likely be corrected this evening.”

With respect to the car-centric development proposal for the airport property, Martin said, “There is no need for the City Commission to take further action on the proposed development, because they [would] have to take affirmative action.  With no [proposed] action before them, the matter is basically dead.  For city staff to engage in any negotiations, we would need permission of the FBCC.  If the FBCC is not offering that, there is no reason for us to enter into negotiations.  So that, too, is moot at this time.” Continue reading

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Nassau County Board Chairman addresses lawsuits

Nassau County Commission
Submitted by Justin Taylor, Chairman
July 17, 2019 5:18 p.m.

Editor’s Note:  The following letter was received by Cindy Jackson, reporter for the Fernandina Observer. It was written on July 17, and signed by Justin M Taylor, Chairman.

There has been a lot of talk lately about this Board that calls into question our integrity. We have a lot of positive things to talk about – Long-term planning as it relates to growth, establishing a multi-year-budget, addressing the workforce housing issue, working toward a recreation masterplan, and so much more. All of that good work goes unnoticed when someone alleges any type impropriety.

It’s no secret that we are currently involved in a lawsuit with Raydient. After recent mediation, it was determined by the mediator that we are at impasse. The only individuals who know what transpired are those who were there. The week following mediation, Raydient amended their lawsuit to include text messages that they insinuate violate Florida’s Sunshine Law. All Elected Officials in Florida are required to complete 4 hours of ethics training with a strong focus on the Sunshine Continue reading

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Barnabas to hold free food distributions at Callahan Fairgrounds

Barnabas Center
Press Release
July 17, 2019 5:00 p.m.

Barnabas Center’s mobile food pantry team will hold free food distributions for lower-income Nassau County residents on Monday, July 22nd and Monday, August 12th. Sign-in begins at 10:30 a.m. and the distribution will last until all the food is distributed at the Northeast Florida Fairgrounds, 543378 US Highway 1 in Callahan. Distributions take place every other Monday. The fairgrounds are located 1.2 miles north of Callahan on US Highway 1. Barnabas Center is located at 1303 Jasmine Street, Fernandina Beach. For more information, please call (904) 261-7000 and visit www.BarnabasNassau.org.

Barnabas is the comprehensive service center in Nassau County that helps our neighbors in crisis with a compassionate helping hand, so they can become healthy, productive citizens, strengthening our entire community. Through our partnerships, Continue reading

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When a book inspires a melody – Story & Song July 21

Story & Song
Press Release
Submitted by Mark Kaufman
July 17, 2019  3:00 p.m.

It’s all too common for a book to inspire a film version, but it takes a special talent to translate a story into a song. Yet that’s exactly what makes Caren and Paul Umbarger, who perform together as The Island Duet, so special.

When Caren’s latest novel, The Passion of Marta, was published, Paul was inspired to write a musical score for each chapter of the book that they could perform on violin and guitar. The story, set in 1780s Germany, centers around nine-year-old Marta Lindauer, who is spellbound upon hearing the sound of a violin. She is consumed with desire to learn how to play – a privilege reserved solely for her brother – and must make a deal with the devil to have her wish fulfilled.

And what better place than Story & Song Bookstore Bistro for a book talk and concert rolled into one? At a special luncheon performance on Sunday, July 21st at 1 pm, The Island Duet will tell the story of The Passion of Marta in words and music. Caren narrates, then she and Paul, “The Island Duet,” play an original composition for violin and guitar that reflects the story as it Continue reading

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