Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 26, 2015 7:05 p.m.

Sparse turnout for FBCC Special Meeting included Roy G. Smith (left) and Len Kreger (right), both candidates for Group 5 Fernandina Beach City Commission.  Local waterfront park advocate Eric Bartelt pictured in center.
Sparse turnout for FBCC Special Meeting on June 26, 2015, included Roy G. Smith (left) and Len Kreger (right), both candidates for Group 5 Fernandina Beach City Commission. Local waterfront park advocate Eric Bartelt pictured in center.

Fernandina Beach City Manager Joe Gerrity has advised the City Commissioners that following discussions with CSX Railroad, the last approved plan for Parking Lot B will need to be revised to reflect the railroad’s requirement for 18-25 feet of clearance between the center of the tracks and any city building activity. This means that perpendicular parking planned to abut the east side of the railroad tracks along Front Street will revert to the original plan for parallel parking in this area. Gerrity asked for direction from the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) in moving forward to obtain engineering services for construction in light of the railroad’s ruling.

Perpendicular parking plan approved for Parking Lot B as presented in March 31, 2015 FBCC presentation
Perpendicular parking plan approved for Parking Lot B as presented in March 31, 2015 FBCC presentation

In response to a question from Commissioner Robin Lentz, Gerrity said that the newly opened city parking lot on Broome Street provides 22 parking spaces, and additional street work has opened an additional 20 parking spaces. While the new spaces are 2 blocks further from Centre Street, they will help offset the loss of the 12 spaces with the elimination of perpendicular parking alongside the railroad tracks. Gerrity expressed his increased comfort level with the elimination of the perpendicular parking spaces because parallel parking will allow for better traffic flow at the foot of Centre Street.

Previously approved Parking Lot B plan showing parallel parking along east side of railroad tracks.
Previously approved Parking Lot B plan showing parallel parking along east side of railroad tracks.

 

Lentz said that she believed that the new parking lot and spaces, while not as close to Centre Street, more than offset the loss of spaces in Parking Lot B, adding that she did not believe that parking was an effective use of waterfront property.

Commissioner Pat Gass said that in light of Governor Rick Scott’s veto of stormwater projects for North Fletcher Avenue, she would prefer to see the waterfront park activity postponed and the money that had been allocated for waterfront park engineering redirected to stormwater mitigation.

Commissioner Tim Poynter said that fixing stormwater problems and constructing the waterfront park were two different issues. He said that the city needs to be able to do more than one thing at a time. Poynter said that the city has a dedicated source of revenue for stormwater projects and that grant money in terms of matching funds for FIND grants is tied up with the waterfront park. If the city desires to accelerate the pace of stormwater projects, Poynter suggested that the city consider borrowing money against the dedicated stream of revenue (stormwater fee) to repay the loan. Poynter said that he did not want to kill the waterfront park plan.

Vice Mayor Johnny Miller asked that the FBCC hold off on making a decision to allow more time for public input.

Lentz moved to go forward with engineering for the waterfront park, but her motion died for lack of a second.

The issue will be put on the agenda of a future meeting for further discussion.

Lynn Williams urges the city to pursue waterfront grants.
Lynn Williams urges the city to pursue waterfront grants.

During public input, Lynn Williams, Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) commissioner reported that FIND gave out $22M in matching grants for waterway assistance for projects between Fernandina Beach and Miami. He urged the city to remain aggressive in pursuing grants under this program, saying that the city “needs to get going and push ahead on the waterfront park.” He strongly supported a measure proposed by Mayor Ed Boner at a previous meeting for the city to acquire the so-called Wade-Vuturo property so that the city marina can move north.

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