FBCC approves replacing CEARB with Special Magistrate on First Reading

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.