Are We Up to The Challenge of Buying Riverstone’s Property?

Publishing Date: April 26, 2023 3:30 am

By Mike Phillips

Though there’s still a lot of tip-toeing going on in county government circles, the cat’s out of the bag: Commissioners didn’t cave to Riverstone Properties Monday evening. They did what they had to do to get all litigation done and off the table — so they could put something else on the table.

Nassau County wants to buy the property where Riverstone would like to build eleven 85-foot condo towers that would be twice as tall as the county’s land use regulations permit.

The property – 50 acres of pristine maritime wooded beauty – is worth about a million dollars an acre. It abuts the state park at the southern tip of Amelia Island. It is an environmental treasure. For a small county like Nassau, that might seem like an impossible pile of cash to raise. The other problem is that the owners might not want to sell.

But here’s what the county has going for it:

  • It’s a county. And counties have the right of eminent domain.
  • There are pots of conservation money in many places, and the Florida legislature is considering a particularly rich one.
  • The land is next to a modest state park. Put the two together, and you can forget about “modest.” Good management could make it one of Florida’s special places. If the state park people understand that, they will be the key to making a deal happen.
  • And then there are our people. The energy, dedication and intelligence of our people are outstanding. If we put petty political differences aside and embrace this challenge together, we the people will be unbeatable.

Let’s go for it.

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Wes White
Wes White (@guest_68802)
1 month ago

Nonsense. Just like the Wildlight debacle, the County continues to trip over its own duck.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 month ago

we should continue to fight for conservation of this land, but support efforts to buy it.

Wes White
Wes White (@guest_68810)
1 month ago

To borrow from Leonard Cohen …

The war is over
The treaty signed
Lawyers paid
We lost the line

There’s truth that lives
And truth that dies
We’ll fight again
Another lie

Chris subleski
Chris subleski(@oldtimehockey)
1 month ago

Set up a GoFundMe page.

Dave Nye
Dave Nye (@guest_68817)
1 month ago

Settling the current case was not necessary to pursuing a purchase of the land by the county.

Glen S.
Glen S. (@guest_68820)
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Nye

If only the current commissioners could walk and chew gum at the same time.

Collin (@guest_68842)
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Nye

Sure it was. If you think sides can negotiate a deal while pointing guns at each other, you’ve watched too many movies.

Taylor (@guest_68819)
1 month ago

If this property is such a maritime treasure, why wasn’t purchased years ago? If the developer would build single family 4k sq ft homes, you wouldn’t hear a peep from anyone. This is more about wealthy beach front property owners not wanting to be boxed in by towers.I do not agree with the tall towers. I also do not agree with higher taxes or a bond to purchase.Hindsight always 20/20.

The Casual Observer
The Casual Observer (@guest_68938)
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor

The answer is, as it always is, money. It costs money and until very recently organizations like Conserve Nassau, Amelia Tree Conservancy and North Florida Land Trust struggled mightily to raise funds, in many cases because folks did not see the need for conservation. Thankfully, the tide has turned! Local cases in point – the Nana Dune and Little Nana in American Beach and many other projects. It has taken a long time but there is now funding for conservation via local government as well. It took time, but we are on the right track. We need to continue the efforts.

Anonymous (@guest_68821)
1 month ago

Kindly remind us who currently owns the 50 acres, and why they sell to the county vs the developers.

Anonymous (@guest_68822)
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Why they MIGHT sell to the county, that is.

1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Per the Nassau County Property Appraiser’s website, Parcel Number 39-1N-29-0000-0001-0000 is owned by RIVERSTONE PROPERTIES LLC.

Anonymous (@guest_68826)
1 month ago
Reply to  KathyJB

Then what would convince Riverstone to sell to the county, vs build?

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_68830)
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

1- The potential for a guaranteed modest profit now, vs. the uncertainty of long term profits as development buildout continues over 10 years (or longer).
2- Potential tax benefits of selling/donating land to the County or State instead of to other private buyers.
3- The opportunity to move on to another, more welcoming, community who won’t show up and oppose every little change they want to make to their master plan over the next 10 years.

Raffaela Marie Fenn
Raffaela Marie Fenn(@raffaelamarie-rizzo-fenn)
1 month ago

I have faith in John Martin and the other commissioners; I think we should all be patient until this all gets sorted out. There’s more to this story, and they have been clear they cannot comment as it’s in litigation. I think we have all made ourselves very clear that we do not want this to go forward. I have to believe they have received guidance on how best to handle to meet the citizen’s desires. I eagerly await the next installment in this continuing saga.

The Casual Observer
The Casual Observer (@guest_68824)
1 month ago

One of the speakers at the BOCC meeting the other night, Ms. Joyce Tuten, offered a number of suggestions for funding. But this won’t be easy. First order of business (if the decks can be cleared) is to get an iron-clad agreement on the value of the property.

Jo-Ann Leimberg
Jo-Ann Leimberg (@guest_68829)
1 month ago

My husband, Steve, would occasionally say, “Be a Peli Can not a Peli Can’t” Corny, yes. But true.
What good will all the nae saying do for the island?
This property is worth trying to buy, worth trying to combine with the existing park. There are many good arguements for it. Let’s at least try!

Bill Calore
Bill Calore (@guest_68833)
1 month ago

If the plan was to purchase the property, then that fact should have been included in the Settlement – that would have included language re: the parties intent to settle in order to allow the parties to pursue the potential purchase of the property with stated ‘next steps’ that they would take (e.g., valuation of the property, time frame, etc.). Plus why did that fact have to be kept secret? Let’s see if they actually agree to sell the property for a reasonable number…or if they end up building the 11 towers…fingers crossed.

Frank Quigley
Frank Quigley(@frank-quigley)
1 month ago

I graduated from Edgewater High in Orlando, Florida in 1971.The same year Disney World opened its gates.The rest, as they say, is history.And I could name at least a dozen Florida settings forever changed, since my Huckleberry Finn days.I fully agree with these lamentations over growth squashing paradise.But I think efforts to slow development in Florida are like pushing marbles up a hill.Playing whack-a-mole with taxpayers money to buy nascent development does not seem right. Too late in the game. 

Taylor (@guest_68847)
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank Quigley

Old native One eye Chuck used to say, If it wernt for them Yankees, we be sittin on the porch watching them Tomatos grow.

Anne Wells
Anne Wells (@guest_68841)
1 month ago

Lest we forget the county approved a $30MM bond to buy conservation land just last year and, to my knowledge, they’ve spent $0 of it. That would be a great start in preserving this jewel of a piece of property.

The Casual Observer
The Casual Observer (@guest_68940)
1 month ago
Reply to  Anne Wells

Which should be a very loud and clear message to the Commissioners from ALL the voters of Nassau County about how they feel on the matter of paving Paradise to put up a parking lot or condo towers. It would appear from their county-wide votes, folks have had enough.

NoNo Bonds
NoNo Bonds (@guest_69920)
12 days ago
Reply to  Anne Wells

Did you buy a bond? Are they for sale? How do I buy some?