Spotlight on the Fernandina Beach Planning Department

Sent to FBCC by Kelly Gibson, Planning Manager
City of Fernandina Beach
February 16, 2017  1:48 p.m.

The information below was provided to Fernandina Beach City Commissioners via email on February 12, 2018.  The Fernandina Observer obtained a copy of Kelly Gibson’s email and provides excerpts below to help the public understand the work of the city Planning Department.

The Planning Department has been exceptionally active in the first weeks of 2018 and I wanted to share an update with everyone.  As many of you are aware, we remain down one full time employee, our CDD Director, who had previously provided the majority of his time towards the planning department’s daily operations. We continue to grapple with the reality of this staff shortage as our daily workload has shifted. In doing so, you will notice that staff is taking on an increasing number of meetings both in City Hall and off-site to support our citizens and customers.  While we are doing our very best to maintain internal deadlines, we are finding that items are slipping and falling behind. We sincerely apologize for any delayed return calls or emails.

Planning Manager Kelly Gibson (second from left) chairs Technical Review Committee meetings.  Gibson also staffs the Planning Advisory Board and chairs the Economic Vitality Council of Fernandina Beach Main Street.

Our priority is customer service and adherence statutory requirements.

We continue to work towards successful completion on our 2017-2018 Planning Department Goals. The associated action plan outlines how we’ve allocated resources to meet our goals in this fiscal year.  Our action plan is updated on a quarterly basis to reflect our progress and adjust deadlines as may be necessary.

Introduction of new online permitting and citizen portal underway

CDD held its kick-off meeting for the new online permitting and citizen portal in December, EnerGov. Through the next 13 months, we will be working to develop and configure a solution to provide increased transparency and superior customer service in keeping with today’s standards and technology. This process is EXTREMELY resource intensive on all three divisions of CDD. Each month consultants are in town for 3-4 days for training and to support staff’s configuration and testing of the new system. As the months progress, additional staff time will be required in order to complete the project. This is very likely to result in scheduled front counter closures. We will communicate all counter closure needs as soon as we possibly can. Please be patient with us! This effort really will help to provide an enhanced customer service tool and bring tremendous value for many years. More information specific to this effort will be forthcoming.

(l-r) Jacob Platt, City Planner II, staffs the Board of Adjustment and Technical Review Committee; Sal Cumella, City Planner II, staffs the Historic District Council, Technical Review Committee and chairs the Fernandina Beach Main Street Design Council.

Commissioners, Please know that I clearly heard your priorities during the January 2018 visioning session and subsequent meetings. The items you’ve directed action from the Planning Department and PAB, as I understand them, are as follows:

  • Waterfront Planning;
  • Planning for Resiliency;
  • Downtown Parking for Residential Needs;
  • Determining Centre Street Business/Residential Mix;
  • Addressing Heritage Tree and Tree Protection Standards;
  • Amending the Comprehensive Plan to address the Port Sub Element;
  • Striving to retain and improve our CRS rating;
  • Conservation Land Acquisition; and
  • Affordable Housing LDC Amendments- looking at accessory dwellings.

I have been working with the City Manager to develop a strategy to tackle these additional tasks and determine an approach that effectively utilizes our planning staff. We will also begin discussions with the PAB on how to tackle some of the more complex and regulatory based items. In general, there are several identified topics which fit well within some of our existing efforts or as part of a current goal. Others will need to be included in future goal updates. As staff, we are requesting that you consider prioritizing these new items and assigning a realistic timeframe for completion.

Alternative strategies for completing these efforts should also be examined. Partnership opportunities from our non-profit and volunteer organizations should be sought provide support and leadership. We are also investigating grant opportunities.  If you have suggestions on a particular strategy for any topic, I am all ears!  We continue to strive towards finding balance in our daily workloads while accomplishing the established goals of the City.

Samantha Rogic

Finally, I’d like to introduce you to a new member of our CDD team, Ms. Samantha Rogic. Sam joins us after providing years of service for the City of Lake Mary in central Florida. She is our part-time planning and code enforcement staff assistant. Her primary focus will be advisory board administration and she will serve as our clerk at future board meetings. Please join me in welcoming her to our office and as part of your boards. We are grateful to have her on our team!

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.

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