AAC recommends adding RV park as new use for non-aviation land at airport

Sharing is caring!

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
December 15, 2017 11:38 a.m.


The Fernandina Beach Airport Advisory Commission (AAC) gave a unanimous thumbs up to adding an RV park to its list of acceptable uses for non-aviation related property in the airport’s Core Development Area 8. The AAC vote followed a presentation by local developer Bob Allison at the AAC’s December 14, 2017 meeting.

Developer Bob Allison presents his plan for a luxury RV park to the AAC.

Allison explained his concept for a “Ritz Carlton-type” RV park, to be located at the west end of Core 8 on non-aviation property at the end of Bailey Road. AAC members appeared to find the idea intriguing. However, their vote did not endorse Allison’s proposal or recommend its approval to the Fernandina Beach City Commission. Rather their vote reflected that such a project constituted an “acceptable use” for the property in question, provided that the FAA concurred.

Core Development Area 8 consists of roughly 53 acres. The majority of the land is currently developed by the Ybor Alvarez Sports Complex, Nassau County Humane Society and Florida Public Utilities. The Airport Master Plan (7.2.9) currently lists acceptable uses for that portion of airport property as light industrial, office/research, and aviation business. Allison only addressed the western most portion of the area.

AAC members concurred with Allison’s assertion that Amelia Island would benefit by a high-end RV park. Currently, Fort Clinch is the only RV campsite on the island and is usually booked up a year in advance.  Large motor homes require more support than average RV parks can provide due to their size, electronics and energy requirements.

Related Story:  Self Service Aviation Gas available again at Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport

Vice Mayor Len Kreger, who as Commission liaison attended the meeting along with City Commissioners-Elect Philip Chapman and Ronald “Chip” Ross, emphasized to AAC members that they were not being asked to endorse Allison’s concept. It would be left to the FBCC to decide if such a use should be amended to the Airport Master Plan. If the FBCC concurred, coordination with the FAA would be required before any specific plan could be considered. He added that it would also be the FBCC’s decision whether to turn to Allison or solicit more bids.


AAC members discuss Allison’s concept (l-r): Don Edlin, Chuck Colcord, Aaron Morgan, David Austin, Kent McKee

AAC members indicated that they have not been approached by any other entity with a plan for that particular parcel of land.

Allison’s Proposal

In his written proposal for leasing vacant airport property for a 125-pad luxury motorhome park, Allison certified that he has lined up $3M in financing, and that the ground lease rate he is proposing is four times higher than the lease rate paid by the Amelia River Golf Course. His business plan proposes that most of the park’s management and staff will consist of disabled U.S. military veterans.

Allison’s plan

Allison has extensive development credentials in Nassau County and Fernandina Beach. He is the current owner and manager of the largest citrus groves and largest irrigated pecan orchard in Nassau County. Allison was the managing partner/owner responsible for the Fernandina Harbor Marina and many residential developments including Egans Bluff Units I and II, Sweetwater Oaks, Cashenwood, Riverside and others. Allison takes pride in his sensitivity to beautifying his developments with tree plantings, landscaping and careful development. He wrote, “I have no interest in building what some might describe as a ‘trailer park’.”

Related Story:  (Almost) Ready for Take Off!

In making his presentation to the AAC, Allison introduced Tim McIlwain, an associate who developed the idea of surrounding the RV park area with an arboretum dedicated to the public display of Florida citrus and other indigenous Florida trees. As a former Container Corporation, Smurfit/Stone manager, McIlwain directed two nurseries that produced over 50 million seedlings each year.

Allison touted the economic benefits to the local economy, highlighting the benefits to the golf courses, since his research has shown that at least 60 percent of luxury motorhome visitors golf.

This is not Allison’s first attempt to build a luxury RV park on Amelia Island. In 2013 he targeted 25 acres of city-owned vacant, undeveloped land along Canopy Drive. However, due to pushback from neighbors, Allison abandoned the plan. He remains determined to see his plans come to fruition in a new location.

/>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.

This entry was posted in City News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to AAC recommends adding RV park as new use for non-aviation land at airport

  1. Chris Hadden says:

    I recall this gentleman trying very hard to sell his idea of an RV park on the island years ago. I seem to recall people on the south end not being thrilled with the idea. People were of the mind ” we don’t want a trailer park here” of course it is not what people think of as a “trailer park” but it is also not a 500K home that fits in with the neighborhood . The airport doesn’t sound like a bad place to put an RV park if you were to just speculate about it. I do question whether the island “needs” one. It would be more large truck like vehicles coming over the bridge. More traffic. More transient people. Seems like we have a lot of that now. At the time I questioned why the park couldn’t be on the other side of the bridge. I think the island has reached the point where each developer who comes to the town and proposes adding more people and traffic has to really explain how the addition of more “stuff” is going to benefit the people who currently live here. The island really needs nothing more. If There is still going to be tremendous growth that is unstoppable. I think we need a very clear picture on how this is a great thing for current residents.

  2. Kinney Leonard says:

    It’s a great thing because I don’t know if many “transient” people that own such expensive RV’s. Some of those “lowly RV’s” cost more than about 80% of the houses kn the island. Speaking of $500,000 homes, has anyone seen the price tag on those luxury RV’s? They run (on average) about $200,000 and the owners are mostly retirees. A lot of these retirees travel in their retirement. Why do they let people live on sailboats or boats that cost much less than that? Surely we don’t need “transient” boat owners that own boats that are worth far less. I suggest an open mind is kept here because some of those “transients” will turn around after visiting and sell those RV’s and buy a $500,000 home on the island. Maybe right next door from you.

  3. Tony Crawford says:

    Chris, you make some very good points. The first thing I thought of when I read this was ” here we go again “. Not unlike the 25 or so years on figuring out the water front, or projects such as Alachua Street. Ever get the feeling that Bill Murry should be here ? What’s the name of that movie that resembles our issues? OH Ground Hog Day.

  4. Bob Allison says:

    Tourists who travel to Florida in their own motor homes and motor coaches are denied the opportunity to visit Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island. There is simply no place to park their rigs on the east side of Nassau County. These people are big spenders and the $10 million a year they spend will be new money to the local business community. Many of these people are golfers who will pay to play golf at the City’s Club ending what has been a permanent subsidy by taxpayers to support the club. This group of travelers do more charitable volunteer work in the communities they visit than any other. Most all are retired professionals including teachers, doctors, engineers, attorneys, and pilots. These are the types of people who discover Amelia Island and find they want to own property here supporting local real estate values. The project I have proposed will contribute around $100,000 in new rents to the Airport. It will contribute around $100,000 in new “bed tax” to the Tourist Development Council and will create approximately 100 new jobs on Amelia Island. It is proposed to be built on Airport property which has been vacant and idle for over 40 years. If the FAA approves and City accepts my company’s proposal to build and manage this project, Fernandina Beach will be a better place for all.

  5. julie ferreira says:

    I guess that i do not love the idea of (at full capacity) 125/million dollar RV’s having to evacuate some September or October day during hurricane season.
    My immediate question would be, does the diameter of the roundabouts on Amelia Concourse fall within the recommended guidelines to handle such large vehicles?
    What space does a well designed single lane roundabout need for large vehicles of the sizes being suggested and are the existing roundabouts on Amelia Parkway of sufficient size and diameter?
    Certainly the city’s taxpayers should not be required to pay to make this a safe evacuation area for residents. I’ve always questioned whether roundabouts should be allowed in evacuation zones in the first place.

  6. Bob Allison says:

    Julie, high winds are no friend to motor homes and motor coaches. You could expect them to be gone from Amelia Island long before most any one else feels the need to evacuate. The roundabouts on the Parkway handle dozens of large tractor trailer trucks everyday without issues or problems.

  7. Peggy Lehosit says:

    I would not agree with Bob Allison’s statement that ‘Fernandina Beach would be a better place for all’ with 53 acres of City land dedicated for use by 125 motorhomes.
    Allison’s assertions of benefits were his words only. Where are those facts coming from and what were the downsides that he omitted? I am sure of his benefits but like thousands of tax paying permanent residents in Fernandina, I would like to see ideas considered for these acres that would be rewarding for Fernandina Beach friends and family.

    • Kinney Leonard says:

      Nothing more rewarding than money! More money for the fire dept, police dept and more tax revenue to provide more services!!

  8. Bob Allison says:

    Peggy, we are proposing to lease approximately 23 acres from the City and not 53 acres. Let’s remember this property has been used many years as a dump site and is currently being used for stockpiling tree debris from hurricane Irma. The Airport with all its’ noise and aviation activity is in fact a transportation hub and is the perfect place for overnight parking for those visitors traveling to Florida in their motor coaches and wanting to visit Amelia Island. Tourism is the island’s economic lifeblood. When we provide facilities that enhance and support new tourism on Amelia Island everyone benefits. Perhaps you know someone who has an adult child living at home because they can’t find a job. This project will deliver to our community over one hundred new jobs. The many benefits to our community for having a facility of this type go beyond simply bringing new golfers to the City’s Golf Club and new money to the City and Airport to use to meet their continuing needs. We fully expect to hire more than ten disabled U.S. military veterans to manage and maintain this park.

  9. Chris Hadden says:

    Regarding the proposal for the RV park and previous comments. First off let me state that I am not patently against the idea of an RV park at the airport. If we were to have one on the island, this sounds like a good place for it. I spent many years living in an RV with my family and traveled all over the country. I do have some perspective on it. I think one thing people must keep in mind is that everything the developer is saying should be examined very closely as to whether it is truth or spin. Mr. Allison is promoting this idea. I assume the reason is he stands to make a lot of money if he is successful. I do not have an issue with that, but keep in mind, he is a salesman. He is selling his product. We have all heard many many promises from developers about the great things they are bringing to our town. Sometimes that is true and sometimes not. In each instance the person that stands to really benefit is the developer. Do we, as residents need an RV park here on the island? Some will probably answer yes, maybe you have family that would use this park. Personally, it is not something I will ever use. It does not add anything to my life. If you do not intend on using the RV park then we need to ask what is it we get from it. If we listen to Mr. Allison he says, “This project will deliver to our community over one hundred new jobs.” Now that is quite a few jobs, Rayonier employs 300 for example. I have to say I very much question this #. 100 jobs to build the place? Or fulltime? It seems unclear. There are 125 RV spots, so it seems unlikely each RV gets an employee. Mr. Allison should clarify. The next thing that stood out was the statement “We fully expect to hire more than ten disabled U.S. military veterans to manage and maintain this park”. I guess my issue is, that is such a blatant sales pitch I start questioning other statements….. “Many of these people are golfers who will pay to play golf at the City’s Club ending what has been a permanent subsidy by taxpayers to support the club” and “This group of travelers (RVers) do more charitable volunteer work in the communities they visit than any other.” To me these statements seem like pure conjecture. After sifting through the sales pitch, we get to the meat. Mr. Allison states “The project I have proposed will contribute around $100,000 in new rents to the Airport. It will contribute around $100,000 in new “bed tax” to the Tourist Development Council” I personally have no idea whether these figures are accurate, nor do I understand who is actually benefiting from the money paid. Does $100,000 to the tourist development council have meaning to a person owning a home on the Island? Do we even need more tourists? Have we as a town discussed how many tourists is to many? I personally do not think we should listen to the figures Mr. Allison is telling us. Instead if the town commissioners are considering approval of this park, we should ask that they look deeply into what benefit the city receives after expected costs from the project. One of the issues that has cropped up on the island recently is a significant movement to halt any type of development. There are a lot of people, I count myself among them, that are not in favor of development of any kind. Why would I take that position? It is because we can’t stop development. In other words, if the city never allowed optional development, such as this, we will still have incredible development that can not be stopped. For example, if you buy a piece of property and you meet all the requirements to develop your property within the city, it can be done. Hence, development will continue. Do we need additional development beyond what is coming? That is my concern. Do we need an RV Park? Does it improve the lives of the residents? How much of this money goes back to the residents? It seems that every development pushed through is always going to give the town a bunch of money and provide jobs. What is odd is years later we never have enough money? Why is that? Why is it that we live in a town filled with the wealthiest people on the planet and somehow, we don’t have enough money without adding more stuff to a little Island? It baffles me. I don’t think this project is the worst to come along, it sounds much better then those vacant strip malls that someone let go up. Still I wonder if this project wouldn’t be better on the other side of the bridge. Just my 2 cents. I trust our commissioners will dig into it and make the right decision.

    • Kinney Leonard says:

      Chris that is the best comment I have read yet. I do believe it can benefit the island in the form of the taxes etc. the points you make about the jobs and the blatant sales pitch of hiring vets is without a doubt wonderful points. Thank you for a great perspective and bringing to the table the points that need to be investigated. You point of the town never having enough money after development is spot on. Thanks again.

  10. Bob Allison says:

    Chris, you raise some very good questions here. The proposed park will employ 15 people. The largest new jobs creation will be in the local business community. The American Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA.com) and the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA.org) estimate motor coach travelers spend over $300 per day in the communities they visit. If our park can achieve an occupancy rate of 85%, which is typical of Florida parks, then we can presume new spending to the local businesses will be approximately $30,000 per day. One third of revenues to businesses are typically spent on payroll. This new $10,000 spent for payroll on Amelia Island should produce more than 100 new jobs. Your concern seems mostly related to that of island homeowners. Many of our park patrons will be visiting Amelia Island for the first time. We can assume some will fall in love with the island will want to buy property here creating new demand to support and push upward local real estate values. By bringing more golfers on the island we can end what has been a permanent subsidy from the City’s taxpayers to the City’s Golf Club. The Club has never had enough paying golfers make ends meet. The ground lease projections are based on what we believe will be fair market rent determined by certified MIA professional real estate appraisers. The projections of “bed tax” are based on our facility maintaining 85% occupancy and paying the current Tourist Development Council rate of 4% on our project revenues. No, I am not a salesman. I am a tree farmer and developer. In my development career I pioneered on Amelia Island the most important tree protection procedures which ended up being the basis for the island’s current tree ordinances. These practices included tree surveys, root protection zones, landscaped buffers, and small bird flight paths. Many believe I have built the most beautiful residential neighborhoods in Nassau County. You or anyone else interested in this can check these out and form your own opinion. Good examples of my work include Egan’s Bluff, Sweetwater Oaks, Cashenwood, Riverside, High Point, Northshore, Kings Plantation and Palm Bluff. Fernandina Harbor Marina and Brett’s restaurant are also my creations. Our project site is on the back side of the Airport nowhere near any residential use. New tree and landscape plantings on the parcel’s perimeter will make it difficult for anyone to see the park. If you or others reading these posts have further questions please call me. My number is 753-1576.

Comments are closed.