Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 23, 2019 3:11 p.m.
The Historic District Council (HDC) of the city of Fernandina Beach met on April 18, 2019. Two of the cases they approved related to property located at 224 North 2nd Street owned by David and Kim Page (HDC cases 2019-06 and 2019-07). The HDC denied the original case for demolition of a historic structure on October 8, 2018. The Pages appealed that decision to the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at their first meeting in January 2019. The FBCC voted to remand the case back to the HDC for further review, allowing the applicants to submit new evidence into the record.
The structure, located at 224 N. 2nd Street, in its current form was constructed between 1897 and 1903. The structure was originally the site of Oliver Oak’s planing mill, which most likely worked in conjunction with the Duryee Saw Mill a few blocks north.
This property was identified as having deficiencies caused by owner neglect dating back to 2009, prior to the Pages’ ownership. As this historic structure does not lie within the Downtown Historic District, it is not subject to Demolition by Neglect regulations. Code Enforcement had been attempting to get the previous owners of the property to properly maintain the structure without success.
Although initially recommending against demolition, staff changed its recommendation following receipt of detailed photographs and professional assessment of the condition of the building, which is located in the Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and faces port warehouses. The HDC has jurisdiction over properties in the CRA.
Although staff believed that the residential structure is an important link to this neighborhood’s history and also represents the last residential example of this architectural style, the deteriorated conditions of the structure made saving it moot.
Staff and the HDC take the demolition of historic structures very seriously and applications face a high review standard to ensure that demolition is warranted. The applicant has provided details attesting to the level of deterioration present in the structure, the lack of historic fabric present on the structure, and the economic feasibility of rehabilitation.
An interested party had come forward earlier this year and proposed relocating the structure. But upon further investigation, the party found it to be infeasible.
The HDC voted 2-1 to approve the demolition on the condition that the owners further consider options to incorporate the structure into the redevelopment project and that materials be salvaged to the greatest extent feasible for incorporation into the new project. Approval was also contingent on conceptual approval of redevelopment plans for the site (HDC 2019-07).
The lone negative vote was cast “in principle” by member Michael Harrison, who believed that cases such as this should be caught earlier on so that demolition will not become the only option.
Consistent with the Central Business District (C-3) zoning for the property, the Pages presented plans for conceptual approval of an approximately 10,680 square foot mixed use project in two buildings. Architect John Cotner presented preliminary, conceptual plans which would provide affordable housing options, including handicapped accessible units on the ground floor. Parking would also be included on site.
The HDC granted conceptual approval to these plans with the proviso that the case return for at least one more conceptual review prior to considering final approval.
Editor’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.