By Bob Allison
I read with interest Commissioner Chip Ross’s rebuttal to my article about waterfront improvements.
He states, “After careful scrutiny, the relocated bulkheads would have required the filling of 3.5 acres of sovereign waters of the state of Florida.”
It appears he is attempting to explain away the city’s paralysis on its waterfront by indicating the tidal lands at the marina are state waters and therefore untouchable.
But what if Mr. Ross is completely wrong about this? What if his “careful scrutiny” never included a five-minute inspection of the surveys at City Hall showing the location at the marina of the submerged land lease from the state of Florida?
A portion of this survey is shown with this article. If Mr. Ross had inspected this survey he might have instantly recognized there is no state lease in effect for the land under the water at the marina and gone on to ask the obvious question: why not?
There is a simple answer to this question. The state of Florida does not require any lease on submerged lands that are not state-owned. State ownership of the land under the water is what determines “sovereign waters.” The state recognizes the city’s ownership of the lands under the marina.
The city, while perhaps relying on Mr. Ross’s “careful scrutiny,” appears blind to the fact that the city owns the entirety of the lands both above and below the water in Water Lots 26, 27, and 28.
This includes all of the land under the marina from Brett’s restaurant to south of the boat ramp. If you have the opportunity to review the plan I presented to the city in 2017, you will notice this is the primary area proposed for the creation of new land for the public waterfront park that citizens have been clamoring about for decades.
Contrary to the opinion of Mr. Ross, the city is not prohibited from relocating its bulkheads on its own submerged lands to create new land to accomplish this. It does not involve infringing on the “sovereign waters of the State of Florida.”
Commissioner Ross describes the processes of improving the city’s waterfront by moving its bulkheads as requiring “intense permitting” — as if this is something the city and its citizens should be afraid of? I think not. The approval process is something most city citizens can get excited about if it offers the promise for the city’s waterfront to be improved in every respect and to include a genuine waterfront park.
My plan for the city’s waterfront is public and available for anyone interested to see and read.
I appreciate Mr. Ross’s comments on the plan, but they would be infinitely more constructive if he could first get his facts straight.
Ask any city official to share with you the city’s plan for the remainder of the waterfront. Don’t be surprised to hear that the city doesn’t have a plan. If you are a city taxpayer, you don’t want to ask how much of your money City Hall has wasted on incompetent out-of-town consultants to develop such plans.
The citizens of Fernandina Beach are poorly served by elected officials who present their own unsupported personal opinions in the local media as absolute fact. Their failure to do even the smallest amount of research on the critical issues affecting the future of the city’s waterfront is unfortunate.
This may best explain the city’s inability to make any meaningful improvements to its most important public property or to organize any viable plan for its future.