A Letter to the Nassau County Commissioners and County Attorney:
Nearly two years ago, the Amelia Tree Conservancy, Sanctuary Property Owners Association and other members of the community sought outside legal advice concerning the proposed Riverstone development and threatened litigation.
We were seeking an honest assessment from highly regarded land use attorneys concerning the merits of Riverstone’s positions. Our interest was simply in knowing, in stark terms, where we stood.
We selected the firm of Gray Robinson, with nearly 300 attorneys and professionals in Florida. The team included Julia Mandel, former counsel for the City of Tampa and one of the most respected land use attorneys in the state.
Attorneys from Gray Robinson discussed the issues on several occasions with Mike Mullin, then County Attorney for Nassau County. Their opinion, after reviewing the record, the law, and discussions with Mr. Mullin was that Riverstone had a weak case and was simply hoping to “bully” the county into submission.
In January 2022, we asked Gray Robinson to put its views in writing, in a form that we could circulate to the commissioners. At that time their conclusion was clear:
“In our opinion, Riverstone’s Notice of Claim should be viewed as a “hail Mary” attempt by a property owner looking to cash in on hypothetical development possibilities at Nassau County’s expense.”
Recently, we have again sought their opinion concerning the proposed settlement with Riverstone. That letter is also attached. It concludes that:
“The proposed agreement with Riverstone is premature, deeply flawed and does not represent a good deal for the taxpayers and citizens of Nassau County. It rewards the efforts of a developer to rollover the county and its citizens by awarding development and other rights without following applicable laws.”
It should be noted that Gray Robinson has not been permitted to speak directly with the commissioners concerning this matter. They have not had access to discovery, if any, that has been produced in the early stages of this case.
Their advice has been very informative to us, as citizens, in forming a response to the very unfavorable proposed settlement now before us. We share their work with you in the hope that it will be helpful to all citizens and the commissioners before any settlement is entered.
Lyn Pannone, Amelia Tree Conservancy
Creighton (“Corky”) Hoffman, Sanctuary Property Owners Association
Let’s see, the former and current county commissioners have put a 30 million dollar bond issue on us as well as approximately $300k first settlement with Rayonier. Riverstone will become another albatross around our necks! A potential multi million dollar settlement. Who knows what the final tally will be from Rayonier! Millions more owed by the taxpayer? Massive tax increases coming for us. You think they’re high now, just wait. Good luck!
If we fail to protect this parcel from the development of towers, our costs for storm damage, both on the island and west of the Amelia River will be far higher. We will just be pushing our costs forward and increasing them. Towers will have an impact on the sense of place (character) of the island and hence on the foundation of our tourism industry as well as removing what little protection remains for our county on the south end of the island. At this point in time, it’s incredible that anyone is fighting for the right to build towers on the coast. We should be devoting our time and money to improving our sustainability and resiliency.
Barry Holloway, have you ever read the “Pending Ordinance Doctrine”? Riverstone is in no way “unduly burdened” by the height ordinance. They did not even have approved plans at that time.
if we don’t stand up to these developers now, this island will become Fort Lauderdale or worse.
I hope the county commission will stand up to Riverstone and reject this proposal. If the county has even a decent case, they should be able to do far better than this. Most litigation ends in a settlement, and caving in to a bad offer is not good practice. Very few people on Amelia Island want these highrises to be built. We should stand firm against them and take our chances in court or in a settlement if our case is even slightly decent.