Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 19, 2019

While not as exciting as the Mueller Report, the EAR Report has direct and long-term impact on the future of land use and planning in the City of Fernandina Beach.  Next week will see the start of a cycle of input and analysis driven by the need to update the city’s Comprehensive Plan based upon a variety of factors, including population growth, changes in law, vacant and developable land, demographics, internal and external major issues. And this will all be done with assistance from the public.

In partnership with the Northeast Florida Regional Council, the City of Fernandina Beach Planning and Conservation Department will host four workshops as part of its Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR).  Required every seven years by Section 163.3191, Florida Statutes, the EAR is intended to evaluate how successful a community has been in addressing major community land use planning issues through implementation of its Comprehensive Plan. The purpose of these workshops will be to solicit community input on City-identified issues and any other issues the community would like to see included in the EAR. Public input provided will form the basis for how the Plan should be revised to better address community objectives, changing conditions and trends affecting the community, and changes in State requirements.

Dates and locations for the meetings are listed below with all meeting times from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm each evening. 

  • Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at City Hall (204 Ash Street)
  • Thursday, April 25, 2019, at Peck Center (516 S. 10th Street)
  • Monday, April 29, 2019, at Fernandina Beach Golf Course Clubhouse (2800 Bill Melton Road)
  • Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport Conference Room (700 Airport Road)

What is EAR?

EAR stands for Evaluation And Review, and relates to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a mandated plan for growth management.  Under Florida law, the city must review and update its Comprehensive Plan every seven years.  City Planning Manager Kelly Gibson provided a little history during a recent briefing.  She said . the City adopted its last EAR in December 2009. Florida’s growth management laws were significantly modified in 2011. As part of that, a new review cycle was issued by the State. The City’s review cycle became due in 2012. Having just completed EAR based amendments, a letter to the state was sent stating that the City had full compliance with statutory changes. 

Seven years later, the city has entered its new EAR cycle.

What is the EAR purpose?

Gibson explained that the EAR is the first step in planning and is intended to

  • Identify Major Issues for the Community
  • Review Past Actions of the local government in implementing the Plan
  • Assess the degree to which plan objectives have been achieved
  • Assess both successes and shortcomings of the Plan
  • Identify ways that the plan should be changed due to: Changing conditions and trends affecting our community; new data and state requirements; changes in regional Plans
  • Ensure Effective intergovernmental coordination (local, regional, and state agencies)
  • Assessment of Plan Goals, Objectives, Policies 
  • Determine any changes based on state law
  • Determine Recommendations for Plan Elements, Studies, or future planning documents

EAR Process Timeline

There is much work to be accomplished over the months ahead.  Following public input in April, city staff will work on a draft for submission to the Planning Advisory Board in July, where public input will continue.  The PAB product will be presented to the City Commission for adoption by Resolution in August.  If adopted, it will be submitted to State Agencies by September 1, 2019.

If all goes according to schedule, the EAR based Amendments will become effective in the 2020-2021 time frame.

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