Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 26, 2015 10:45
Although it was not on the agenda for the June 26, 2015 Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) Special Meeting, City Manager Joe Gerrity raised matters associated with city beach access 33 toward the end of the meeting. He reported that he had just received an email from Baxter Hayes the adjoining property owner at 3280 S. Fletcher Avenue (see below) offering to build a handicapped accessible beach access at his own expense. The owner will obtain essential permits and transfer ownership of the walkover to the city. Gerrity added that nothing prohibits building a parking area at that access in the future.
Commissioner Tim Poynter reminded commissioners that in earlier city Capital Improvement Plans the city had allocated $100-125K to build such an access. Poynter said that by assuming this project, Hayes will save the city the same amount of money. He commended the property owner for having turned the contentious situation into a win-win for the city. Poynter and other commissioners expressed regret that the property owner has been vilified for landscaping the beach access approach when he had requested and received permission from the city to do so.
Mayor Ed Boner explained that while there is a sign designating Beach Access 33, one had never been constructed there. In the past there was a path used to access the beach that many residents remember.
Vice Mayor Johnny Miller said that he has been “working behind the scenes” with people to resolve the situation. He asked that at a future meeting the FBCC discuss limiting the city manager’s ability to make decisions that could result in restricting access to the beach without more public input.