Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 23, 2018 4:21 p.m.
Requested city actions that affect land use in one form or another are complex and time consuming, requiring consideration by city staff, the Planning Advisory Board and ultimately the Fernandina Beach City Commission. And that doesn’t even get into the issue of permit and hearing costs for the applicants.
Recently, FBCC consideration of applications for changes has become even more complicated with the addition of something called quasi-judicial hearings. Previously, the FBCC heard ordinances at two readings, the second of which formally included a Public Hearing, even though the FBCC generally took public input during the First Reading as well.
Several years ago, the Florida Supreme Court changed the law on rezoning, site plan approvals, special exceptions, variances and similar types of development approvals from a legislative decision process to a quasi-judicial decision process. A legislative process is one in which policy is created by a legislative body (the City Commission). A quasi-judicial action is when the facts of a particular situation are applied to the policy (ordinance). Essentially, a quasi- judicial process is the application of policy to a fact situation.
Typical quasi-judicial proceedingsare those in which a property owner makes an application to the City for a rezoning, site plan approval, a special exception or variance. There are rules and standards set forth in the ordinances regarding the criteria that must be met in order to get a special exception or a variance, what has to be included in the site plan, and what the standards are for reviewing these applications. The facts of the case are applied to the standards set forth in the ordinance, and the decision is then made.
The proceedings before these boards in a quasi-judicial matter are somewhat like a court proceeding; therefore, the term “quasi-judicial.” They have some of the elements of a judicial or court proceeding.
In a legislative proceeding, the City Commission can take into account anything that it considers important to help it make its decision, including the popularity or public acceptance of a particular policy. In a quasi-judicial proceeding, the City Commission and the City boards are not allowed to take into consideration the popularity of a particular development proposal or request for variance or special exception; they can only consider the competent andsubstantial evidence before the board or the City Commission.
What does this mean for Fernandina Beach land use applications?
The city’s Historic District Council and Board of Adjustment have regularly conducted quasi-judicial proceedings to address cases that come before them. However, this has not been the case, until recently, for the FBCC hearings on land use matters.
During their September 18, 2018 Regular Meeting the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) considered five separate agenda items dealing with land issues. Some, such as the Lakeside Reserve plat and two voluntary annexations were given final approval. Others involved quasi-judicial hearings, following which no vote was taken on the entire case; but preliminary approval via a legislative hearing was provided. That second category must return to the FBCC for a final vote during a Second Reading.
The cases presented at the September 18, 2018 are summarized below. For a complete reading of the ordinances, staff reports, applications, etc., consult the Agenda & Minutes for this meeting on the city’s website.
- Resolution 2018-138: Final plat for Lakeside Reserve (5-0 vote)
Aspire at Amelia II, LLC, requested and received final plat approval of a single family home subdivision containing twenty-nine lots on 7.90 acres of land located on Amelia Road and Simmons Road. The applicant intends to build a single-family home subdivision to be named “Lakeside Reserve.” The applicant’s final plat demonstrates a build-out density of 3.67 units per acre. The requested final plat was consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.
- Ordinance 2018-22: Voluntary annexation of 1336 S. 14thStreet and 1451 Nectarine Street; and Ordinance 2018-23: Assigning a Future Land Use Map (FLUM) Category of General Commercial (GC) for both parcels. (5-0 vote)
The property located at 1336 S. 14th Street currently serves as a children’s daycare center and offers voluntary pre- kindergarten and after-school care activities. Adjoining the site is a vacant mobile home with an address of 1451 Nectarine Street, which currently serves as a storage area and employee parking for the daycare center.
This Ordinance was approved at First Reading by the City Commission at its Regular Meeting on August 21, 2018.
These properties are contiguous to the municipal limits on the western property boundary of 1336 S. 14th Street and the eastern property boundary of 1451 Nectarine Street. As consistent with municipal code section 82-44, the property owner entered into a voluntary annexation agreement with the City in December 2017. Resolution 2017-174 approved the extension of water and sewer services.
The requested FLUM and zoning categories are consistent with the properties’ existing Nassau County land use and zoning assignments.
- Ordinance 2018-25: Voluntary annexation – 0.57 acre parcel on T.J. Courson Road; and Ordinance 2018-26: Assigning the city’s Future Land Use Map (FLUM) category to General Commercial (GC) for the same parcel. Both approved unanimously on Second Reading. (5-0 vote)
The land is located next to the Amelia Plaza shopping center on TJ Courson Road. The property is contiguous to the municipal limits on its northern property boundary. As consistent with municipal code section 82-44, the property owner entered into a voluntary annexation agreement with the City in May 2018. Resolution 2018-60 approves the extension of water and sewer services. The subject property is vacant at this time with anticipated development of a new structure for Townies Pizzeria in the near future. The property owners are working with the City’s Technical Review Committee and have completed a pre-application conference.
2nd READING REQUIRED FOR FINAL APPROVAL
- Ordinance 2018-31 and Ordinance 2018-32 – 0.23 acre on South 5thStreet
The applicant, John E. Sasser, requested a small scale Future Land Use Map amendment and Zoning Map Change for property located on S. 5th Street containing two original lots of record numbered 10 and 11 located on block 287. The requested action is to change the split Future Land Use Map category from the Industrial (IND) land use and Medium Density Residential (MDR) category to Medium Density Residential (R-2). The requested zoning map change seeks to modify the existing designation from Light Industrial (I-1) to Medium Density Residential (R-2) zoning on the subject property. The Planning Advisory Board considered the request at its Regular Meeting on August 8, 2018, and issued a recommendation of approval.
During the hearing it came to light that the original split FLUM and zoning was a result of a mapping error. The applicant will not be required to pay costs for the hearings, but the final approval awaits action at a Second Reading.
- Ordinances 2018-33, 2018-34 and 2018-35 – Voluntary annexation of 187.29 acres (Crane Island) into the city, assigning a Future Land Use Map (FLUM) category of Low Density and Conservation, assigning a Large Scale Zoning Category of Low Density Residential (R-1) and applying a Planned Unit Development (PUD) overlay.
The Range at Crane Island, LLC requested a voluntary annexation of approximately 187.29 acres of land located on the intracoastal waterway adjoining the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport. The applicant further requested a large scale future land use map assignment of Low Density Residential and R-1 zoning district with a Planned Unit Development (PUD) overlay zoning described in Nassau County Ordinances 2006-80 and 2013-16.
The requested actions are in compliance with the terms of the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding and subsequent 2005 Order of Dismissal (Willis, et al. v City of Fernandina Beach, Case No. 2000-14-CA, in the Circuit Court, Fourth Judicial Circuit, Nassau County), and the Amended 2008 MOU.
At its Regular Meeting on August 8, 2018, the City’s Planning Advisory Board considered the request and issued a recommendation of approval. Planning Staff recommends approval based on consistency with the terms of the amended Memorandum of Understanding and State Law.
The development of Crane Island has been a matter of controversy for several years. Attempts to ban development led to a legal proceeding, which resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding to allow development to proceed. The project as presented to the city complied with the legal requirements and set aside parcels of land for conservation.
The development requires an intervening step to secure state approval before it returns to the FBCC for final approval.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.