Tringali Land Variance Denied by Board of Adjustment

Board of Adjustment hearing.

By Mike Lednovich

After hearing two and half hours of impassioned pleas to keep the character of downtown neighborhoods intact, the city’s Board of Adjustment voted 5-0 Wednesday to deny the developer of the former Tringali property a variance seeking to build 10 housing units on parcels where three homes had once stood.

Property owner Worthy Investments sought the variance to revert to the city’s 1857 Yulee plat, which would have allowed the developer to subdivide three parcels into 10 lots for residential housing.

The city’s Land Development Code (LDC) specifically prohibits reverting property to the 1857 plat when houses or structures have been built across lot lines, ruling those two lots are now considered a single parcel.

“We spent months and months doing this,” said Planning Advisory Board member Mark Bennett, who helped write the 2006 LDC provision against subdividing lots. “If you allow this to go forward, you will kill this city.”

Bennett said the intent of the LDC section is to preserve the integrity of neighborhoods.

“A neighbor could walk out on their porch and know there were six houses on Fourth Street every day, not 12 houses, not seven,” Bennett said. “This (variance application) is the same story (more density) I’ve heard when we started this (writing the LDC revisions).”

Bennett was among 12 speakers who gave testimony opposing the variance.

After the ruling, Ron Flick, the agent for Worthy Investments, said he is optimistic that the property owners would prevail with an appeal of a Nassau County Court Ruling that said the developer had to obtain a variance from the Board of Adjustment in order build more units on the land, which was formerly owned by the Tringali family.

Under the city’s R-2 zoning allowances, Worthy Investments would be allowed to build six units – a triplex, duplex and single family home – on the lots, which are on South Fourth Street, just north of Beech Street.

Last year the city commission, ignoring provisions of the Land Development Code, voted to allow the Tringali lots on South Third and Fourth streets to be subdivided for townhouses. That decision was overturned by a Nassau County Judge after a lawsuit by adjacent homeowners. Worthy Investments appealed that ruling.

Flick told Board of Adjustment members that Worthy Investments was seeking the variance and “asking to make the property more flexible” in developing units.

“These are 10 parcels in my book. Originally, the idea was to generate something targeting a higher value per square foot in product, compatible with the land values which drives up land and other values of all the adjacent properties,” Flick said. “It benefits us to make the (overall) community look better.”

He said, “I don’t like the constraints of the size of the lots right now,” and stated limitations of the current restrictions would make current allowable units “somewhat disjointed.”

Retired attorney Frank Santry argued that the LDC is ironclad in prohibiting subdividing of parcels after homes and structures have been built on combined properties. “Don’t lose sight of the three LDC provisions that you’re being asked to provide an exemption from what the last 19 years has applied to every other similar situated landowner in the city of Fernandina Beach without any reference to the underlying circumstances,” he said.

John Cascone, who has lived across the street from one of the lots on Fourth Street for 34 years told the board, “They (Worthy Investment) bought (the property) knowing what the rules were, they should be bound by the rules. You’re talking about bringing in row housing, like downtown Philadelphia, New York or Boston. That’s not what Fernandina is. You’re being asked to change the entire nature of our neighborhood.”

Worthy Investments can file an appeal of the Board of Adjustment’s variance denial in Nassau County Court.

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Noble Member
26 days ago

I agree with John Cascone. They knew what the rules were when they bought the property, so they should be bound by those rules.
It doesn’t make good business sense to buy a property on a hope and a prayer that they will get the variance. It makes me wonder if they thought they had a green light or an “In”…….politics in action. Bad politics of late.

Noble Member
26 days ago

Yup. Rules are rules. It’s frustrating to see rules changed in the middle of a game. However, mother said, “It never hurts to ask”…… buy the property under today’s limitations, then try to up the value by getting higher density. It’s a great idea, but, let’s stick to the rules…..

Noble Member
26 days ago

Stop issuing variances to increase density! Good decision!

Active Member
23 days ago
Reply to  jfindlay

Increased density means increased tax revenue for the city, it’s a long slog to preserve and defend our unique sense of place.

Mark Tomes
Active Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
26 days ago

“make the property more flexible,” “targeting a higher value per square foot in product,” “make the community look better,” “allowable units are somewhat disjointed.” My gosh, the c#@p developers will say to make an extra buck.

Paula M
Noble Member
Paula M(@paula-m)
26 days ago

Good news

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