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 904-242-3495; Senator Aaron Bean 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.

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chuck hall
chuck hall (@guest_63355)
9 months ago

There seemed to be a bright spot for a brief moment….. this battle has gone on for decades, and the real losers are the voters. While some OPHA members might be seeing the light, most do not live in Fernandina, and don’t give a rat about how the port has affected the area.

This distain for a major part of the county, doesn’t help the image of a port already in dire straights.

Hopefully a reasonable agreement can be reached.

Pam Green
Pam Green (@guest_63356)
9 months ago

Mind boggling! With the focused desire to expand the Port’s footprint into the Historic District by eminent domain, some of the OHPA commissioners’ actions echo the plundering pirates of Fernandina’s colorful past. The OHPA has a history of ignoring the rules, declaring at an October meeting that it wants to end the city’s effort to get the port’s charter changed to require it to adhere to regulations within the city limits such as zoning and permitting. The OHPA also seemingly abandoned its responsibility to oversee the actions of the Port Operator, from whom at that time, did not receive a port director’s report, a tonnage report, or a port operator’s report, as Port Director Ragucci, failed to attend the meeting.

In another example of flaunting the rules, the City had sent a letter to OHPA about preserving the customs house, a historically significant property. In response, Comm. Franklin said, “I think we ought to take this piece of paper and throw it in the trashcan.”

At its most recent meeting, the OHPA was supposed to easily pass the ILA, but the inability to seize Historic District property to expand the port’s footprint rankled Comm. Franklin, who has little regard for citizens who “moved here in the last 10 years or so that want to “control everything”, including the “historic” port. “I am not selling out to the city for a couple of little ole voters, 50 or 60 people controlling 70 something thousand.” 


Although it’s unclear where Comm. Franklin got those numbers, the issue is maintaining a safe, functioning port that adheres to the laws and guidelines of the City of Fernandina Beach. If you believe that the OHPA, like all other government entities, should follow the laws and guidelines of the city and eliminate its ability to pillage historically rich neighborhoods, then please attend the meeting on Monday, December 13, at 2 p.m. in the Commission Chambers, 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee.


Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_63358)
9 months ago

Thank you, Tammi, for keeping this in the public eye.

Steven Crounse
Steven Crounse (@guest_63362)
9 months ago

OHPA Commissioner Franklin has always had a ‘Hate On’ for anything Fernandina Beach. Five years ago a grassroots group were concerned over a request that Kinder Morgan put in for a EPA Permit to Handle, Store, and Transfer 500,000 tons of Coal per Year at our Port. At that time in meetings Franklin, and then OHPA attorney Clyde Davis said “OPHA, and the Port will do anything damn thing we want, and the City can’t stop us”. Our group went to our City Commision and asked them to support changes in the archaic 1942 Charter to protect this Community from this ‘Rubber Stamp’ OHPA Commision. The City Commissioners Approved their support of changes. We took our suggestions to a Legislators meeting. Janet Adkins, and Aaron Bean. Janet was on the side of the Citizens of our Community to make modifications to the OHPA Charter to Protect our Community from Port Creep into our Historic District, and Eliminate Eminent Domain within the City of Fernandina Beach. Senator Aaron Bean Said “Well, a 3 to 2 vote wasn’t really support for Changes” Senator Bean said he was on the side of the Citizens of Fernandina Beach.. then overruled the People, the City Commision, and Janet Adkins in favor of no Changes to the Charter… So the Safety of our Community is still tied to the whims of an irrelevant Port that has not been able to pay for itself since 1996. Loans, and grants are the only thing that Keeps it Afloat. We’ll see what Beans does with this. I don’t hold out any hope that he will change a thing.

Rich Polk
Rich Polk (@guest_63364)
9 months ago

It’s called sovereign immunity. And, OHPA will use it to do whatever they want to do. The only way to stop it is to call or write your representative in Congress.

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