Weekly comments from Dale Martin – The waterfront process reinforces the need for public participation . . .

Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
July 16, 2021

City Manager Dale Martin

At the previous City Commission meeting, the City Commission was asked to consider the proposed lease terms associated with the property commonly referred to as Atlantic Seafood (adjacent to the City’s boat ramp at the west end of Ash Street at S. Front Street. Based upon questions and comments posed to City Commissioners following the meeting, let me offer additional background.

The current lease with Ms. Anne Coonrod (Atlantic Seafood) was approved by City Commission Resolution 2008-71 (May 6, 2008). The general terms of the lease were for the existing structure (of approximately 1,000 square feet) for twenty years, with a monthly rent of approximately $1,300 with an annual increase associated with a Consumer Price Index (not to exceed six percent). The Tenant (Atlantic Seafood) is also responsible for property taxes associated with the property. An option to renew the lease at the request of the Tenant under similar terms may be granted at the sole discretion of the City Commission, which “shall not be unreasonably withheld.”

Although other general terms and conditions are codified in the lease, an additional consideration for the extension of the City boardwalk is included as Section 30. The key provisions of Section 30 provide that if the City wishes to extend the boardwalk which would necessitate the removal of any/all of the existing structure, the Tenant may rebuild (at Tenant cost) the lost portion of the building. Furthermore, Sec. 30 concludes with “In the event that additional land, space, or square footage is required by the Tenant to accommodate the replacement of the Demised Premises and/or add additional services to the business, the parties shall renegotiate this Lease and the description of the Demised Premises.”

Leaping forward to 2017, the City, with the assistance of the National Research Center, mailed (on three occasions) the National Citizen Survey (NCS) to 1,500 randomly selected households within the city limits. In addition to several basic questions related to local government services, a specific question stated: Please rate to what extent you would support or oppose the Amelia River waterfront (between Ash Street and Alachua Street) being primarily (though not exclusively) used in the following ways: parking, open space, recreational facilities, commercial, and no changes. 88% of respondents strongly/somewhat supported open space, followed by 71% for recreational facilities. The most opposed (strongly/somewhat) options were commercial (54%) and no changes (also 54%). Total respondents to the survey numbered 493.

Another edition of the NCS was similarly mailed to 2,900 randomly selected City households. Although no specific questions were presented about the waterfront, the response rate was somewhat similar, with 1,052 surveys returned. When the results (which are available for review on the City website under the Community tab on the main page) were released, a common refrain was “I didn’t get a survey and I don’t know anyone who did!” The survey results posted on the website include technical appendices regarding the survey methodology, including a map illustrating the targeted households.

The Amelia River waterfront efforts have been the subject of innumerable studies and the key priority of several City Commissions, including all City Commissions since my appointment as City Manager in 2015. City staff efforts are commonly based upon established City Commission goals such as the waterfront.

In line with previous City Commissions, the City Commission again established the waterfront as a priority in 2019. A Steering Committee of the Chairpersons of several prominent boards and commissions was formed, and a consultant interviewed the Steering Committee members and the City Commissioners. Based upon those interviews, the consultant prepared a series of conceptual renderings for the waterfront. A summary of the comments and the concepts were presented to the City Commission in January, 2020. The Steering Committee and the City Commission expressed support for what has been referred to as Concept E.

The next step of soliciting broader in-person public comment was subsequently disrupted by the pandemic. Comments were then solicited through an online Community Hub, available to anyone with access to the internet (no geographic restrictions). The Hub, publicized through many local media outlets (print and electronic) as well as a variety of popular social media sites, was available for public comment for approximately thirty days. Even with this open availability and extensive public notice, approximately 3,000 page views generated less than 150 comments on the various features of Concept E. Nearly all of the components of the area south of the boat ramp, including only two limited and general commercial sites, received high marks. As with the NCS, the summary of the most recent waterfront efforts are available on the City web site (under the Your Government tab). It has been that effort which culminated in the recent discussions regarding the Atlantic Seafood lease.

My discussions with Ms. Coonrod date back several years. In anticipation of the belief that the City would offer a “sweetheart” lease, in 2019, I obtained a professional commercial appraisal to establish a market-rate lease fee for a theoretical 9,000 square foot parcel (not building as has been apparently been promoted). Earlier this year, as informal discussions continued, I obtained a second appraisal for a theoretical 14,000 square foot lot. Those appraisals are public records.

That is how we got to where we are today in the discussions regarding Atlantic Seafood. Ms. Coonrod is exercising the terms of her original lease as provided in Section 30. An additional factor related to the current location of Atlantic Seafood is the planned reconstruction of major stormwater improvements that currently run directly below Atlantic Seafood.

I have enjoyed working with Ms. Coonrod and look forward to continuing to support Atlantic Seafood for as long as possible, in its current or future form.

The waterfront process also reinforces the need for public participation in the appropriately provided forums. While the NCS was limited in its random distribution, the Community Hub was open and available to everyone- and only 150 people responded. Thank you to those respondents.

In that light, additional surveys and outreach efforts are currently ongoing related to City Parks and Recreation facilities and services as well as for the City’s 2045 Visioning (both of those efforts can also be located at the bottom of the City’s main web page). A potential developer is also soliciting community insight for a significant project. If you are an interested resident, I encourage you to take a few moments to participate. Your participation- or lack thereof- provides a foundation for the City Commission to make decisions with far-reaching implications. Get involved.

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louis goldman
louis goldman (@guest_61648)
2 years ago

To save a lot of time and energy I would suggest that the City review the results of the 3 meetings waterfront meetings that were held several years ago, I would bet that the residents of the City today want similar items as they did back then.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
2 years ago

Deja vu all over again. The City Commission formally approved a riverfront park development plan in 2012 that was based on a number of public charrettes referenced by Lou Goldman that had more than 100 people involved representing all the stakeholders from riverfront property owners, downtown businesses, citizens, etc.. Not every individual agreed with every element of the plan but the joint committees of the FL Waterfront Partnership and the Parks & Recreation committee came to a consensus for the submitted plan. But like so many other projects, that work gets put on the shelf so a new administration can put their identity on a different plan that attempts to incorporate features (i.e. additional commercial space) that have consistently and soundly been rejected by citizens.

One has to question the motives behind the current efforts to provide Atlantic Seafood (AS) the ability to greatly expand their commercial business. The stated intention to have the new lease’s revenue accrue to the Marina enterprise fund is a major policy change as currently, all uplands revenue is credited to the General Fund. While more of an accounting gimmick to lessen the subsidy required by the marina due to debt service and constant dredging expense, it begins to create a slippery slope.

On a financial front, based on information obtained from the City, Atlantic Seafood’s monthly base rent beginning in May 2021 is $1,600/month. The property records show the leased lot at .03 acre or approximately 1,300 square feet (although it would appear there has been substantial footprint “creep” over the years with or without the city’s knowledge/approval).. The math works out to $1.23/sf/month or $14.77 sf/annually. So how does a $7.50/sf/year proposed rate seen like a fair value when AS is already paying almost twice that for essentially a ground lease? Either AS got a terrible deal or the City’s hired valuation firm doesn’t have a good understanding of the value of prime waterfront real estate.

The justification for relocation in the lease is the routing of the riverfront boardwalk. This is a red herring as due to the boat ramp, the riverfront boardwalk is always going to have to be re-routed up towards Front Street on both sides of the ramp. Mayor Mike has indicated to me that it isn’t really the boardwalk that dictates the move as it is the construction of the flood barriers as part of the shoreline stabilization project for Lots C&D. It’s another issue but Lots C&D are at the least risk of floding and flood damage of almost any other area along the riverfront except for David Cook’s property at the extreme south end.

Here’s a win-win solution. Provide AS with a ground lease to build a new structure on the former Vuturo (Front Street Glad) lot which the city purchased in 2016, That lot is twice as big (.71 acre or 3,100 sq. ft) as the current AS leased area. Nope, not big enough for a 9,000 sq. ft. restaurant but there could be some expansion as well as parking. The current lease does not give AS carte blanche to build as big as they want.

And so it goes.

Robert Prager
Robert Prager (@guest_61658)
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott


The City elected to construct the shoreline stabilization in parts. The work along Lots C & D are not a stand alone project, just the southern terminus of the project. All parts will be necessary to avoid floodwaters flanking the project. As for the boardwalk, people currently walk around Atlantic Seafood, across the boat ramp and continue along the river. If the boat ramp isn’t relocated, no matter how the pedestrians are routed they will cross the ramp at the river, at Front Street or somewhere in between. The Atlantic Seafood building has reached its useful life and something needs to be done. Your comments about Atlantic Seafood reminded me of our neighboring community of Mayport except when Safe Harbor Seafood started renovating and expanding their retail seafood house, warehouses, and restaurant in 2016 they were described as a savior for Mayport Village by The Florida Times Union. 

David Lott
David Lott(@dave-l)
2 years ago
Reply to  Robert Prager

Robert, from my perspective comparing the area around Safe Harbor’s property in Mayport on Ocean Street and the FB riverfront park area is night and day. The community has consistently said NO to more commercial space on city property along the waterfront. I understand the shoreline stabilization project will be done in phases, but the reality is that the shoreline at Lots C & D probably has the highest elevation and is least likely to be an initial point of intrusion. Additionally, if water does intrude there, the resulting damage is probably the lowest since there are no commercial buildings and vertical structures. So with minimal dollars to start with and no future funding guaranteed, is that the wisest place to start. The boat ramp will not be relocated period. This has been looked at several times and there is no suitable relocation point as there is a major mud flat at the south end of Lot D. I can’t imagine any designer suggesting a walkway that would cross over and require step down and step up the boat ramp, all the while there would be boat trailers backing up. No, the boardwalk will have to go up to the pedestrian crossing on Front Street as it does now.

Robert Prager
Robert Prager (@guest_61739)
2 years ago
Reply to  David Lott

Dave, pedestrians would cross just above the slope of the ramp along the river not at Front Street. Either way, they cross the apron of the ramp. If you watch pedestrians now, they come around the building and cross the apron diagonally to get back to the river. Boat trailers back up no matter where the crosswalk is set.


J Harold Shannon
J Harold Shannon (@guest_61661)
2 years ago

Mr Scott, I believe .71 acres is 30,900 +/- SF. Not 3100 SF.

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_61673)
2 years ago

1- It’s Mr. Lott, not Mr. Scott. BIG difference.

2- Your square footage calculations are correct, but the usable land is a lot less.

3- Don’t forget that at least half of the lot is underwater and you cannot build right up to the property lines or Front Street.

4- Parking spaces would likely consume a lot of that square footage.

5- If the City desires to maintain some sort of public access to future uses of the submerged lands, they might retain additional land (and parking) rights.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
2 years ago
Reply to  John Goshco
  1. i suspect that in confusing me with Dave Scott, he would be offended. LOL
  2. Yes, my typo as i was rounding up to 31,000
  3. Since the building that was there was demolished, I don’t have any way to see what the building footprint was, but there are uplands plenty sufficient for a replacement of the existing Atlantic Seafoods footprint. Under the I-W designation, there are NO front, side or rear setbacks so they can build property line to property line as long as they stay under the 60% maximum for impervious surfaces, but since their lot extends into the water, that shouldn’t be an issue.
  4. Their current parking is minimal and more would be available on that lot.
  5. The whole purpose of the property acquisitions was for the riparian rights that would potentially allow the southern marina docks to be moved to the north. Since this is city property, their ground lease could maintain a boardwalk easement out to the boat docks if one was needed.
J Harold Shannon
J Harold Shannon (@guest_61690)
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

Mea culpa and apologies to Mr. Dave Lott for my errant mis-identification of his name. However one does not usually rent just usable area but the whole lot based on it’s size and value.

This is waterfront property and the city needs to get the appropriate income from it’s assets no matter who the lessee is. Face it, $7.50/ SF annually is laughable! The city needs to stop wasting the taxpayers money (assets) and go for value.