By Taina Cristner
In early 2006, at the beginning of the aughts’ housing bubble, the city of Fernandina Beach rewrote the city’s Land Development Code. Then-City Attorney Braga, at the request of the then-city commissioners, wisely included language that would preserve downtown Fernandina’s character.
The intent of the language was to stop property owners or developers from tearing down one home and replacing it with multiple homes. It’s so important it is listed in the first section of our Land Development Code, which states:
Section 1.03.05 Construction or Demolition of Structures on Combined Lots:
“In order to maintain open space, visual corridors, neighborhood character, property values and visual attractiveness of residential areas, wherever there may exist a single-family detached residential unit or, a duplex structure or any auxiliary building or structure … such lots thereafter constitute one building site and must be considered the “lot of record,” and no permit will be issued for the construction of more than one residential dwelling unit on the site.”
On January 26, 2006, City Attorney Braga presented this draft language to the Planning Advisory Board. Here are sections of the approved minutes of that meeting:
“Ms. Hartley (city planner) read the proposed 1.03.05 language that was drafted by the city attorney. She clarified that this zoning and land use restriction is on the property on which someone built a house — and now the city doesn’t want the property owner to try to maximize profit and increase density across the board by tearing down that house and putting up two houses.
Chairman Bennett suggested including this language so it would be quite clear. He commented that the intent of the board was to allow single buildings, but where lots have been combined and single improvements put on them to keep it that way.
Member Conger noted that entrepreneurs would purchase an existing building on a lot and then they’ll split it in order to build two houses. He questioned if this effectively puts up a barrier to activity like that. Ms. Hartley replied, “correct.”
Fast forward to today, where current city administrators are trying to ignore this code. The precedent-setting case of this approach would be the Tringali property, where an applicant would like to tear down four single-family homes and replace them with 12 townhomes. I presume the applicant would like to do this to “maximize their profit and increase density across the board.” Exactly what our Land Development Code Section 1.03.05 prevents.
Planner Hartley assured the board in 2006 that the language drafted by then-city attorney Braga was clear and would “put up a barrier to activity like that.”
Several of our current city commissioners have declared they are “pro-property rights.” I agree – I am also pro-property rights. However, being pro-property rights does not mean that you allow neighbors to break laws.
For instance, my neighbors cannot drill for oil, run a speakeasy, or start a goat farm on our downtown properties. Why? Because it is against our laws. The same applies to developers who would like to tear down single-family homes and replace them with multiple townhomes. Why can’t they do this? Because of Section 1.03.05 of our Land Development Code.
Section 1.03.05 of our LDC is clear. The intent of the board that approved it is clear. There is no ambiguity. There are no gray areas. If our current city administrators and private developers don’t like it, they can try to change it. But they can’t ignore it.
Our city commissioners have sworn to uphold the laws and codes of the city of Fernandina Beach. Because of section 1.03.05 of the Land Development Code, they have no choice but to reject the Tringali proposal for 12 townhomes without breaking their oath.
If our city commission approves the Tringali townhome project, then I’m applying to open that goat farm – after I drill for oil. You can come over to my speakeasy and hear all about it.
Speak out now and save our downtown! The city commission will hear this case 6 p.m. May 16 at City Hall.
Thank you for the thorough research on this issue.
Although the CFB commissioners have sworn to uphold the law, it is clear from recent decisions that they believe they do not have a mandate to do that!
Interesting that the author says he is pro-property rights but also says he is against the development because it would be against the law, when the law he quotes is rather anti-property rights. That is a truly democracy-minded person! Thank you!
Seems typical in todays climate where laws are meant to be ignored/broken, and disregard for citizens voices.. ya get who you voted for.
What do we want for the future of Fernandina Beach? Townhouses and nothing historically appropriate for this town? What effect do we expect that to have on tourism and residency, on our tax base? People come here because of the small-town and historic character of the city. No need to come here for townhouses–plenty of them in much larger cities.
Ms. Kirkland are you a resident of Fernandina Beach?
Ms. Kirkland, I’ve asked you previously if you are a resident of Fernandina Beach and you have never responded. Why? .
In my opinion the old Fernandina Lumber looked better and was more essential than the new townhouses they built already. Leave the Tringali property and everything else for that matter alone.
The Tringali family has been here longer than most of you I am sure. Why don’t y’all donate your properties to green space and go back to where ever you came from and let the Tringali family do what the are legally allowed to do,…or here is an idea, there are still tax dollars going to promote tourism and growth in Fernandina and Amelia Island. Take that Money and buy these parcels at a fair market value price or put your money where your mouth is and buy and donate them yourselves. People who disagree with you are greedy, law breakers, or “agitators” while you pride yourself as being “activist”. What’s the difference? The majority of you are all a bunch of liberal carpetbaggers and a lot of us are sick of listening to your sanctimonious swill.
Wow, glad you are not my neighbor.
Tim, your plea to “let the Tringali family do what they are legally allowed to do…” is the crux of the issue. The LDC appears to be very clear that they (or subsequent owners) are NOT legally allowed to do what they are requesting to increase the density of the property. If the current language is upheld, they certainly have the legal right to challenge the legitimacy of the ordinance code in the courts.
Dave Lott, are you a resident of Fernandina Beach?
Please advance the discussion, if you can.
Residency has nothing to do with the ability to read the plain language of the LDC.
John….I have no problem with Dave asking that question. Apparently, a few regular commenters on “City” issues don’t pay taxes here and for some reason won’t fess up to that when Dave asks. I’m all for listening to ideas but I would also like to know if that person has a stake in the matter thru residency and paying taxes if the issue directly involves the City. Comments regarding FBCC matters, when you don’t have a vote in those elections, is something I would prefer to know.
I naturally assumed people with opinions on how our taxes should be used were City residents…….apparently I’ve been wrong.
They are asking to reduce the density.
Thank you Tim! Finally. Someone says it. I think people would be surprised how beautiful the proposed homes will be and how well they will fit into and improve that neighborhood of downtown.
Would y’all rather the Tringali family knock down the unkempt, rundown family homes (not historical in the least) and sell off the land as it is currently platted? Then you’ll have 20 new homes being built. OR we can let the Tringali family sell this property to the current buyer, as was the wish of Tony Tringali before he passed away, and they will lower the density of the area by changing it to only 12 lots.
I know people think they’re entitled to have their way with these properties and are concerned about their “view” or their “wonderful neighborhood” but instead of being afraid of change, consider the moldy structures before you turning into 20 homes instead of 4 rundown eyesores. Which would you choose? Four moldy eyesores, 20 new homes being built, or 6 new structures, built to be aesthetically pleasing and fit into the surrounding area. These homes are planned to look like some of the traditional, beautiful historic area homes just down the road. The uproar is embarrassing when it is so misplaced. Use your energy to fight hate, hunger, and homelessness.
I’m confused by your comment, “sell off the land as it is currently platted? Then you’ll have 20 new homes being built.” Why do you think 20 new homes could be built if the argument is they can’t sell it to build 12 homes? The argument is, “wherever there may exist a single-family detached residential unit or, a duplex structure or any auxiliary building or structure … such lots thereafter constitute one building site and must be considered the “lot of record,” and no permit will be issued for the construction of more than one residential dwelling unit on the site.” If they can’t build 12, how could they build 20?
The land is currently platted for 20 lots. If this sale is denied for whatever reason, the homes will be razed and it will again be 20 lots. Does that make more sense?
I believe you are mistaken. As PattyM stated (and quoted from the LDC), the multiple lots that each home sits on are now considered one building site – the lot of record – per the LDC quoted. The lots cannot be split out and must remain as they are now. If the four homes are razed, they can be replaced with four residential dwelling units, not 20. We wanted to split our own double lot (within city limits), tear down the single existing home, and build one house on each lot, but we cannot, due to the LDC.
Were your lord Spanish lots?
No, just two regular lots on S. Fletcher with a house built in the 1940s.
My question about your lots being Spanish may be irrelevant but I was mainly curious. The lots underneath the structures on the property in question are Spanish lots. According to a recent Planning meeting, they do not want to change the currently platted 20 Spanish lots. There is a requirement to recognize Spanish lots.
Hmm. Interesting. I did not know that!
Katie they were platted by David Yulee. Not Spanish lots. Thanks!