Proposed Charter change heading to November ballot in Fernandina Beach

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 24, 2020

The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC)  approved on First Reading at their July 21, 2020 meeting Ordinance 2020-22, which contains ballot language for the 2020 General Election in November intended to safeguard city owned conservation and recreation lands.

Commissioner Chip Ross requested at a City Commission meeting in May 2019, that an Ordinance be drafted to amend the Charter to provide that a referendum be required to sell or lease for 40+ years any City-owned conservation land.  Ross agreed to change the previously approved language in Ordinance 2019-15 to what the Charter Review Committee recommended in June 2020. 

Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on the following Question:

Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to prohibit the sale or lease of City-owned conservation lands and restrict the sale or lease of City-owned recreation facilities by requiring unanimous vote of the City Commission and approval at a referendum by at least 70% of the electors of the City?

If voters approve this question in the November election, the enabling ordinance will amend Section 10A of the City Charter to add a third subsection regarding a referendum for sale or lease of City-owned conservation land.

The Ordinance passed unanimously on First Reading.  A Second Reading, including a public hearing on the proposed change, will be required before the item is placed on the ballot.

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bob carter
bob carter (@guest_58450)
3 years ago

I’d be opposed to a charter change for this particular writing . Tying the hands of future commissions seems like a control issue, and should be left to commissioners that are voted in by the people, not by a commission that existed decades ago. To reach back from your grave to control a town’s development is a bit of a reach.

Had the commissions of old done this for commercial use, for an example, wouldn’t all of downtowns residential areas be commercial today?

Conservation is a good idea, and it’s nice to have open land. Yet can’t we just allow the voters of the future make their own decisions about a tiny town, its finances, and its land use?

Look, a FAIR referendum might even be a good idea, yet this one is loaded for a pre-determined outcome as it is written to preclude ANY chance of having the lands sold or leased. Obviously, the writer of the charter amendment already knows this.

Conservation land is non-taxed land. Taxes go higher as more land is removed from the tax rolls. Wealthy people don’t mind paying more, but perhaps someone should think about the average family. And to say that one is for the poor…… really? Raise their taxes?

It just seems that those that have lots of money, are writing the rules of taxation for those that don’t have money. It seems unfair.

Betsie Huben
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
3 years ago

Disagree with comments by Bob Carter. In the short time I have been here we have gone from 800 or so acres of undeveloped land inside the city limits to about 500 acres. It is disappearing rapidly. When it is gone it is gone. Any consideration to sell city-owned recreation or conservation lands should not be by a vote of just five commissioners. IF it should ever come to a vote, it should be by a vote of the city residents who currently utilize and enjoy the Egan’s Creek Greenway, Central Park and all the other land held by the city off the tax rolls.