By Tammi Kosack
December 10, 2021
Back to (contentious) business as usual between Ocean Highway Port Authority and the City
In just over 24 hours, the Inter Local Agreement touted by OHPA Chair Danny Fullwood as “excellent, that would work for both sides” and signifying the start of OHPA and the City working together became the catalyst for a downward spiral of both decorum and process during the December OPHA meeting.
Due to the discovery earlier this year of two Federal grant applications made by the Port Operator on behalf of OHPA (without their knowledge of details) which included port expansion into the historic district, taking over and closing city roads and increasing semi-truck staging in residential areas, it became clear that the City needed a more robust regulatory framework concerning Port intentions within the city.
As such, the City submitted a bill for the current state legislative session requesting changes to the Port charter. Proposed changes include eliminating OHPA’s use of eminent domain, prohibiting the port from expanding beyond its current footprint, and requiring the port to follow codes and procedures of the City, the Historic District Guidelines (within which the port lies) and Florida Building Code.
In lieu of charter changes, OHPA requested an Inter Local Agreement (ILA) with the City and after months of negotiations, it was believed an acceptable ILA had been achieved. This proposed ILA passed both readings at City Commission meetings. At the December 7th City Commission meeting, OHPA Chair Fullwood praised the work of all parties involved and anticipated a sweeping majority vote for the ILA to pass at the December 8 OHPA meeting. He also confirmed with the Commission that if passed the City would withdraw its request for charter changes.
However the OHPA meeting brought an unexpected turn of events. Not only did objections surface–not wanting to adhere to Historic District Guidelines, wanting to be able to expand and grow the port footprint– but what had seemed like recent steps toward a more collegiate relationship between the City, its citizens and the Port were quickly eroded by derisive, dismissive statements made by OHPA Board members and directed at the City and its residents.
It was suggested the ILA be thrown away and that the only history of importance was the port itself and that neighbors and the opinions of “some little ole voters” did not matter. There were further incorrect statements about the Historic District Council and accusations made by OHPA Board members that the City was obstructing repair work on the historic customs house. (May I suggest, as I do to all people who live/work in the historic district, a review of the Historic District Guidelines as well as Chapter 8 of the Land Development Code which outline in minute detail the process and procedures that ALL of us in the District must follow.)
The leopard has re-emerged, full spots intact. Due to the inability of local governmental agencies to work together for joint passage of an ILA, the City’s request for charter changes proceeds to Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd to figure out what we cannot seem to figure out for ourselves locally.
The City’s local bill for this issue will be presented at the Nassau County Delegation meeting on Monday, December 13, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. in the Commission Chambers located at 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee, FL 32097 to hear the bill and take public input.
If you cannot attend in person, call or email before Monday’s meeting: Rep Cord Byrd firstname.lastname@example.org 904-242-3495; Senator Aaron Bean email@example.com 904-757-5039
This is the time for citizen involvement in our future and preservation of our past and making our voices heard by our Delegation. Show up to secure your own spot(s)!!
Editor’s Note: Tammi Kosack is a member of the Fernandina Beach Historic District Council and is an avid preservationist.