FERNANDINA BEACH WEATHER

Fernandina Beach approves legislative funding priorities; agrees to modify if interlocal agreement can be worked out with OHPA

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
November 17, 2021

The State of Florida Legislature each year requests recommendations for legislative funding priorities for the State’s Fiscal Year.

The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) discussed projects for which legislative funding could be sought at their September 21, 2021 and October 5, 2021 Workshops. The City Commission, at their November 2, 2021, Regular Meeting, due to the Nassau County Local Delegation meeting held November 10, 2021, voted to add an emergency agenda item to support five Legislative Priorities: One (1) Local Bill and four (4) General Bills. To allow for public notice and input, the Fiscal Year 2022/2023 Legislative Priorities were further considered at the City Commission’s November 16, 2021 Regular Meeting.  

On a unanimous vote, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) ratified their November 2, 2021 decision by approving Resolution 2021-182.

Local Bill – OHPA

OHPA Chair Danny Fullwood

Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) Chair Danny Fullwood paid a visit to the FBCC to address concerns over one of the items on the City’s list of legislative priorities for the upcoming 2022 Florida Legislative Session.  Fullwood asked the FBCC to remove proposed amendments to special law Chapter 2005-293, which established OHPA as a Special District by the state.  The City has desired to amend the Ocean, Highway and Port Authority of Nassau County’s Charter to prohibit expansion of port facilities into the Downtown Fernandina Beach Historic District, “to require compliance with the applicable City or County Comprehensive Plan for development of port facilities, and to require that the responsibility for paying for ad valorem taxes resulting from private use of Port Authority-owned property shall remain with the private entity and not with the Port Authority.”

Expressing a desire to reset the often confrontational relationship between OHPA and the City of Fernandina Beach, Fullwood suggested addressing the City’s concerns through an interlocal agreement that would incorporate the same points.  He indicated that he was speaking for himself, but that he was prepared to bring the item to the full OHPA Board for discussion and approval.  He advised that work is underway on a new Master Plan, which could address many of the City’s concerns as well.

Fullwood also indicated a desire to proceed with a request from the City to relocate the federal shipping channel, which is no longer used.  

After a period of civil discussion and reassurances from Fullwood that OHPA was prepared to meet with the City as soon as possible to do this, the FBCC seemed to endorse Fullwood’s offer.  

However, they proceeded to approve Resolution 2021-182, which contains the proposal to amend the Special Law governing OHPA, with the understanding that if OHPA and the City can execute the proposed interlocal agreement quickly, the City will withdraw this request from its legislative priorities.

Four General Bills for which the City continues to seek State funding include:

  • First Priority: Seek $1,000,000 to design, permit and/or construct physical improvements that improve shoreline stabilization and flood protection in response to climate change along the Amelia Riverfront.
  • Second Priority: Support $1,000,000 grant application, to be submitted to the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Preservation, with a $250,000 match, to complete necessary repairs at the Peck Center (formerly Peck High School), a historic Rosenwald School.
  • Third Priority: Seek $500,000 for beach walkovers to support resiliency, dune growth for storm protection and meet increased tourism and residential demands.
  • Fourth Priority: Seek $2,000,000 for design, construction and/or reconstruction of City administration building(s) and legislative meeting space.

Commissioners expressed appreciation to OHPA Chair Fullwood for his appearance.  Parties recognized some urgency in addressing the OHPA matters prior to the next Legislative Delegation meeting in December, during which the City could remove its request for action on a local agreement if an interlocal agreement is in place.

City Commissioner Bradley Bean expressed a desire for a joint meeting of the FBCC and OHPA in the near future.  Chair Fullwood agreed.  Commissioner Chip Ross grilled Fullwood on the specifics of the City’s concerns, asking if he would commit to abide by the City’s development and building requirements.  Fullwood agreed, adding that he believed that OHPA has done so in the past with respect to some of the concerns.

City Attorney Tammi Bach will draft an interlocal agreement incorporating the FBCC’s concerns and forward to OHPA for consideration at OHPA’s December 8, 2021 meeting.  Both the City and OHPA remained amenable to scheduling special meetings to resolve this issue.

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