Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 8, 2021
The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) considered voluntary annexation of property on Bailey Road and on South 15th Street on First Reading at their September 7, 2021 Regular Meeting. Commissioners supported the Bailey Road request; but rejected the South 15th Street request.
Several steps are required to effect voluntary annexations. The FBCC must conduct quasi judicial hearings prior to voting to approve/disapprove the action. Then there are ordinances to consider which would change the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) assignment and the Zoning Map assignment to reflect the change from county to city designations. A minimum of two readings are necessary for each voluntary annexation.
Requests for annexation are vetted by City Planners and the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) prior to presentation to the FBCC in the form of Ordinances. In both cases considered on September 7, City staff and the PAB recommended approval.
Voluntary Annexation – 2754 & 2766 Bailey Road (4.85 acres)
The subject property currently carries a Nassau County FLUM designation of Medium Density Residential (MDR) and is zoned RS-2. The Applicant is requesting a City of Fernandina Beach FLUM designation of LDR and an R-1 zoning. It is the applicant’s desire to construct single family residential homes and this zoning designation supports this end use, while also complying with the requested FLUM designation.
The property that is adjacent to the west of the subject property is currently zoned R-2 within the City of Fernandina Beach. The applicant believes that an LDR FLUM designation and R-1 zoning provide a good transition from the Isle De Mai subdivision (located south of the subject site) to the R-1 zoning and Low Density Residential located south of the subject site.
Commissioners conducted the quasi judicial hearing, and no party spoke for or against the proposal. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the FLUM and Zoning Map changes on the grounds that the property is currently zoned residential by the county and would remain so following annexation.
Voluntary Annexation – Lot 8, Block 267, South 15th Street (0.908 acre)
The subject property currently carries a Nassau County FLUM designation of Commercial and is zoned Commercial Intensive (CI). The Applicant is requesting a City of Fernandina Beach FLUM designation of Mixed Use and MU-1 zoning. It is the applicant’s desire to construct in accordance with the City MU-1 zoning which permits residential and light commercial elements.
The existing County CI zoning allows for a residential caretaker’s units and this use is currently present adjacent to the subject site. Consequently, mixed use currently exists within the immediate area.
The property that is adjacent to the west of the subject property is currently zoned C-2 and the property that is adjacent to the east of the subject property is currently zoned MU-1 within the City of Fernandina Beach. The applicant believes that a FLUM designation of Mixed Use and MU-1 zoning provide for a good transition and is consistent with uses present in the area.
Although both City Staff and the Planning Advisory recommended approving this annexation, the FBCC voted 3-2 against it. The Commissioners voting in opposition—Mayor Mike Lednovich, Vice Mayor Len Kreger, and Commissioner Chip Ross — have consistently voted against land use changes that would convert Industrial or Commercial properties into residential.
City Planning Director Kelly explained that the recommendation to zone this property MU-1 seemed appropriate for a small piece of property that abuts both residential and commercial property.
Commissioner Ross said, “I do not believe that we should be taking commercial land and turning it into more people coming here. This land will be used for housing. You can say what you want about Mixed Use, but I hear more and more complaints [from residents] about the increased congestion that comes with more housing. I will be voting against this. This is nothing against the applicant or the project, it is just my policy.”
Commissioner David Sturges disagreed with Ross, citing the small size of the parcel and the zoning of surrounding property. Approving the request would only add 8 residential units (townhouses) he said.
Vice Mayor Len Kreger agreed with Ross and said he would vote no.
Commissioner Bradley Bean said that he would vote for this item because of the City’s need for affordable housing.
Ross reminded Bean that the apartment complex at 14th and Lime Street was originally touted as a project designed to increase affordable housing, but that did not materialize. Kreger said that while he had proposed affordable housing for that project, he did not get a second on his motion. The project went forward to be rented at market prices.
Lednovich said he would stand on his campaign promise not to convert commercial and industrial into residential property. He cited examples of townhouse developments around the city that he believed were out of place in neighborhood designs.
When the vote was taken, only Commissioners Bean and Sturges supported it, so the item failed on a 2-3 vote.