A Comment for and About William H. Goodwin Junior

Dear Sir,

I’ve been reading about you. I do that a lot: reading about people who have changed their cities and towns for the better – or, like Einstein, changed the world.

You might not be up there with Einstein (who is?), but you definitely are up there in the rarified world of philanthropy. You have changed your city, Richmond, Virginia, much for the better, you’ve protected barrier islands, especially Kiawah Island, and your gifts to cancer research have been stunning.

I am writing to you from another island, Amelia Island. It’s only 13 miles long and at most two miles wide. There are about 37,000 residents and about a million and a half annual visitors. They come for the beach, the marina, a lovely state park, a thriving little downtown, a well-preserved historic district and an old-fashioned, friendly culture. Oh yes, and dozens of great family-owned restaurants.

We are at two obvious inflection points on Amelia Island: One is that there is not much more developable land left. The other is that there are a lot more people who would like to live here.

A subtler but more important inflection point is that our homes are built on sand. What holds us together are trees and marsh grass. The roots of our majestic, mature live oaks  and many other species have woven a protective barrier beneath our feet.

We haven’t always been the most intelligent stewards of this island, but we have learned the value of space between dwellings, and we have learned about trees. We still have enough space and enough trees – but just enough.

You are a businessman who has proven many times over that well-managed inflection points are crucial to success. Now you are at a very personal one as you turn your businesses over to the next generation. One small part of that transfer is a mere 50 acres on the south end of our island. It is a lovely spot, heavily forested and  facing dramatic dunes, a lightly-used stretch of beach and the sea.

The land cost you about $2 million when you bought it, and now it is worth more than $70 million. Independent appraisals have shown that the land is worth as much if sold for luxury single-family homes as high-rise condominiums.

But the next generation and the managers it has hired think that eleven 85-foot condo towers would eke out even more value – despite the legal gymnastics needed to get past the county’s 45-foot height restriction. And despite the determined opposition of a community that understands careful stewardship of our sandy footing isn’t just laudable conservation – it’s good business, too.

We’ll grant that the new generation has inherited your intelligence and your drive. But we wonder about its wisdom.

You are justly revered by your city and your neighboring islands. But I am sorry to tell you that if those towers go up, the name of William H. Goodwin Junior will be compromised on Amelia Island,


Michael Phillips

Editor of the Fernandina Observer

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Paula M
Noble Member
Paula M(@paula-m)
5 months ago

Hope he reads this.

5 months ago

This is thought provoking and informative – an interesting perspective on a hot topic. I hope it is widely circulated.

Trusted Member
5 months ago

Thanks for writing and publishing this. I also wrote letters to Mr. Goodwin and his top-ranking employees in 2019, when I was Chair of Amelia Tree Conservancy. I explained the perspectives of Amelia Island residents, the importance of this parcel for the future of the south end of the island and the survival of the wildlife that depend on it. I urged him to continue his tradition of good works by following a path of conservation with this parcel. Sadly, there was no response and no action. I frankly doubt that he ever saw the letter and all signs indicated that the next generation felt a need to prove themselves fiscally.

Perhaps we should all publish our letters in The Richmond Times-Dispatch. This story should go down in history not only on Amelia Island, but also in Richmond, VA.

Active Member
[email protected](@memaguireaol-com)
5 months ago

Obituary | William Hunter Goodwin III | Bennett Funeral Homes

This is a caring family local folks might support.