Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 27, 2019
In March 2019 the Fernandina Beach City Commission unanimously approved entering into an agreement with the North Florida Land Trust to acquire two parcels of land for conservation located on the east side of North 11th Street between Broome and Dade Streets. The larger of the two parcels has been owned by the Episcopal Church Diocese.
The city has not yet come into posession of that property, and Marc Hudson of the North Florida Land Trust recently explained why:
“The Property should be ready to close in the next couple of months. The seller is currently going through what is commonly called a “Quiet Title Action.” When we, or the city, buy land we commonly acquire title insurance to make sure we are covered if any outside claims of ownership are made against the property in the future. In this case, we can’t get title insurance because of an oddity in how the Property was deeded to the church. Back then it was customary for members of the church to give their gift in the name of the Bishop, rather than the church itself, as the Bishop was the foremost representative of the church in the community. This presented a problem for the title insurance company because of the possibility that a personal heir of the Bishop might make claim to the Property. Now, the church has the strongest claim against the property, as they have been maintaining the land for more than 100 years, but claims are not equivalent to a certainty of ownership. So, to clear up the title issue and make sure we can get insurance on the Property, the seller has initiated this title action, wherein they go to a judge and make their case for ownership, the judge then gives them some work to do to try and notice any potential heirs over a certain time period (in this case 60 days), and if no one responds, then the judge clears all outside claims against the title. I’ve been informed the seller doesn’t believe any heirs are likely to make a claim, and are already in the notice period.
“We are still working on it, just clearing up this one aspect, and once cleared, we will close. It’s sometimes laborious and boring, but to us, to preserve a land forever, means forever, so we want to make sure these extra steps are taken to protect the land. Additionally, when a donor gives us money, we are usually buying something very expensive, so those gifts are not insubstantial, and therefore, we want to be the best stewards we can with those funds.”