Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 10, 2015 3:15 p.m.

 

Tim Poynter
Tim Poynter

Local businessman and Fernandina Beach city commissioner Tim Poynter has backed off plans to purchase and convert the former educational building of the First Baptist Church into a short-term lodging facility. Poynter began work on this project two years ago, when he was not a city commissioner. Had the plan succeeded, the repurposed building could have added $45,000 to annual city tax revenues.  However, as plans moved closer to actualization, Poynter found that he could not overcome parking requirements and obstacles for this particular parcel located in the Central Business District (C-3). Poynter decided to abandon the project after having invested several thousand dollars, indicating that he still believed in the value of such a project for downtown development; he just could not see any way forward with existing code requirements as interpreted by city staff.

Former educational building owned by First Baptist Church at 19N. 5th
Former educational building owned by First Baptist Church at 19N. 5th

At this time there is no indication that city staff, Poynter or the property owner (First Baptist Church) will take any further action on this matter. Poynter has asked that the city refund fees he paid to apply for a variance, which has been mooted out by his withdrawal of the project.

Next week the Fernandina Observer plans to explore in greater depth some of the code issues confronting potential developers in the Central Business District, where non-conforming uses for properties like churches create confusion in the minds of residents and potential property developers alike.

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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Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_32288)
7 years ago

This is sad. A proven, successful business man with connections in this city could not make a deal to turn a tax exempt church property into a short term rental property. To put it on the tax rolls for the first time, increase tourist population in our historic district. Increase sales for merchants, restaurants, realtors, the arts, etc. Because of what? Code requirements, illegal impact fees, local folks that are jealous of Mr. Poynter’s success in this town that they would stop at nothing to see this project fail. Well, we are all the losers. This is what Ms. DiBella meant when she said that Fernandina Beach was not “vibrant” at the PAB meeting. That was the wrong venue, the wrong issue, and the wrong timing for her to make that statement but the reality is we put so many roadblocks in the way of small business people that we are all the losers in the long run. Hopefully our elected officials will see this and make adjustments in our codes. I think Mr. Poynter has seen the light.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_32386)
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve Crounse

What about valet parking? The Catholic Church used it to meet their parking requirements? Not only would the City get tax revenue, but a job or two may be created. Applying the rules fairly to everyone is important. If the rules do not meet the intended result of public purpose, then someone needs to submit a text amendment to the land code to get it changed. Then it would be fair to all. People and staff get portrayed in a poor light when there are hints of favoritism. . . which it sounds like didn’t happen here!

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_32293)
7 years ago

The real tragedy here at the end of the day is simply, who loses? We now have a building that has been vacant for years. We have no foreseeable reason to think it will be developed for years to come. Simply put we have a vacant building that is going to stay vacant. It would be stupid to argue Poynter’s right as a citizen to explore a project and put it into effect. He has the same right as anyone else to do business. In fact, as a City Commissioner, he will be living in a glass house throughout the whole project, every adversary will be making sure every detail is exact.
There are code problems. There are City problems. There are community problems with the local neighborhood and how it will effect the quality of life in that section of town. And there are social media problems with false information being spread as to what this project entails. Many have very valid points and concerns especially those in the surrounding area. Wouldn’t it be nice if all parties could get together and at least try to address these concerns and correct them. The City may have to bend, the neighborhood may have to bend and Mr. Poynter may have to bend. Why can’t an attempt be made to see if a reasonable solution could be reached. Who would gain should this project go through? Mr. Poynter? Maybe, he hopes to make a profit, but there is no guarantee to that. The City? Yes, the City gets an extra chunk of change each year. They get more folks to stay downtown, and that brings in more revenue for the downtown business, that is guaranteed. How does the neighborhood benefit? If this worked out it would be taking a vacant property which as each year goes by is falling into a worse state of disrepair and fixing it up. Granted, details have to be worked out with respect to noise, parking and security, that goes without saying. This is where the challenge comes in to get all the parties to sit down and try to work out the details. Good leadership by the city is not the ability to just be able to read the rules and have the power to enforce them. Good leadership is the
ability to read the rules and make them work for the betterment of the City in the long run. The City really has nothing at all to lose if this is successful– they gain taxes and business for the area. If the neighborhood’s needs are met, they get to see an improvement to an eyesore with no future. The only one who is really risking anything in this game is Tim Poynter, but isn’t that what business men do. Some times they win and sometimes they go broke trying, but that is their right. Who really loses in the end?

Mrs. D Hunter
Mrs. D Hunter (@guest_32301)
7 years ago

Mr. Poynter tried to rush through this process, bypassing in-place historic district protocols on his way to fast tracking his project under the same assessment deadline the rest of us must comply with. In doing so, he met resistance from neighbors and from the city, so he backed off. Good. Good for the neighbors who voiced opposition. Good that the city has code requirements firmly in place. Good that those involved w/ the historic commission balked that he overrode ordinary protocol. Computing the number of dollars lost by “losing” Poynter’s plan is no way to assign value to a future plan. Better plans will come. MUCH better plans will come.

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_32330)
7 years ago

Seems to me Mr Poynters aggressive nature and the need to close the deal prior to the increase in the illegal impact fees of tens of thousands of dollars ruffled some neighbors feathers. I understand that,but Mr. Poynter is a business man. I don’t know him personally but have observed him on the city commission and as a local business man. I want this guy on my team. Ms Hunter states in her post ” better plans will come. much better plans will come” I really hope that’s true, for the local community and the city. But the church is not going to maintain the building forever, better they donate it to some other charitable organization for their use. No parking, well it could be use as a drug rehab facility. The clients could be bused in and dropped off. I guess that would be a much better plan. Any other options?

Margo Story
Margo Story (@guest_32352)
7 years ago

It is a darn shame about the city fighting off what is good for everyone. Tim Poynter had a good idea about short term rental apts….that building is too old for anything else & if he has the funds & nowhow then for heavens sake , let him have a go at it!!Now that he has backed out, who or what will they do w/ it? Hmmm…let’s see who has the last laugh.

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_32354)
7 years ago

Hay, perhaps Joe Miranda is the guy. Looks like he pretty much walks on water. Now all we need is someone with a fat wallet that wants to take on this project. Got anyone in mind?

John P. Megna
John P. Megna (@guest_32365)
7 years ago

This whole project was a good idea – win/win now lose/lose. Who loses? You bet – we do! Another example of how sometimes our City and citizens can’t work out these kind of problems. The City should revisit some of their “rules” and bend to the point of looking in a real world. I believe another issue is the neighbors who complained are the same ones with no desire to see changes or do good for this city. It seems that a former commissioner and neighbor of the purposed development is against this. The City should reverse itself and sit down with Poynter to work out the problems. This City’s rules are outdated and should be looked at so that this doesn’t continue. This is a sad situation!

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_32388)
7 years ago
Reply to  John P. Megna

Hope you all come to a 5pm meeting of the Planning Advisory Board on Tuesday, April 14. You can see how difficult it is to get ANY of the land code changed. Citizens want to prohibit an oil refinery in the City . . . they are facing opposition from a few big land owners who WANT an oil refinery IN the City. Most refineries have accidents every few years. This is the last meeting of the PAB to discuss this issue. Good luck getting the parking codes changed! And who wants to buy loft apartments close to oil refineries? And what business will be left if the large land holders get their way?

Mrs. D Hunter
Mrs. D Hunter (@guest_32391)
7 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross
Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_32392)
7 years ago
Reply to  Mrs. D Hunter

Thank you for the reminder. However, surprisingly, the prohibition against an oil refinery may not pass. The 200+ acre land holders are not the Port of Fernandina.

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_32408)
7 years ago

What the Heck? I know, lets go back to the 1950’s and fire up the old pogy fertilizer plant I hear the menhaden are running. Tyson Corp. is looking for a chicken processing facility along the east coast. The folks in Maryland want them to move somewhere else. You remember Pfiesteria? Killed millions of fish and sickened fisherman. I think there’s room on the Amelia River next to Brets restaurant. Now that could be a huge economic engine for our City. That along with Nassau Terminal pumping Toxic Fossil Fuels, piles of coal in barges and stockpiled along the rivers edge. Wow, a refinery of our very own on the Island? Don’t you think it’s time to return the crazies to the asylum and lock the door? Ps. Please don’t miss the Rep. Adkins, almost meeting at her office on April 14th at 9:00 am Please we need to fill her office with concerned citizens. This BS has gone on way to long. See you there.

Andrew Curtin
Andrew Curtin(@bkdriverajcgmail-com)
7 years ago

Mr.Poynter has no one but himself to blame for having to withdraw his proposal. It seems he once again attempted to play fast and loose with the rules,this time to beat a deadline,and painted himself into a corner.Now,if he is serious,he will develop a plan that will work within our land use rules instead of attempting to effect changes that benefit him.
Andrew Curtin

PS.Who are the principals building this “Oil Refinery”

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