Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 20, 2022
On First Reading at the January 18, 2022 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) the FBCC passed Ordinance 2022-02, amending the Code of Ordinances to replace the Code Enforcement and Review Board (CEARB) with a Special Magistrate. Commissioners Bradley Bean and David Sturges voted in opposition.
Commissioner Bradley Bean expressed his opposition to a change that would take a power that was shared among 7 board members and concentrate it in one person, a Special Magistrate. He said, “The subjectivity of one person is far more impactful than that of one person on a multi-member board.” He supported a process that would include more debate prior to any ruling. He expressed a willingness to consider term limits for CEARB members.
Commissioner Chip Ross said that he has attended all the CEARB meetings over the past 4 years. He drew an analogy to legal proceedings where there were jury trials and trials before just a judge. He observed that sometimes the CEARB members get mired down in legal details. He said, “I appreciate all the members who have served on the CEARB. I think they do a good job. But I believe the Special Magistrate is a better way to try, at least for the short term.”
Commissioner David Sturges raised concerns about the cost of such a move. City Attorney Tammi Bach said that the Legal Department has money to cover outside legal expenses. With one person hearing cases once a month, she opined that the process would be shorter. Bach said, “I am hopeful that we have a lot of retired attorneys in town who might be willing to serve in the capacity of Special Magistrate as volunteers.”
The ordinance will require a second reading before it can be adopted.