By Mike Phillips
The shroud of mystery has been lifted from the latest settlement proposal by Riverstone Properties in its quest to build a three-quarter-mile string of 85-foot tall towers on 50 prime acres of ocean-front land next to Amelia Island State Park.
With one glaring exception, there’s not much difference between this offer and the last one, which Nassau County authorities rejected last year.
The legal issues underlying the dispute are interpretations of the Bert Harris Private Property Protection Act and the county’s land use ordinance forbidding structures taller than 45 feet in unincorporated Nassau County.
It’s all about timing, with the developers arguing that the county imposed the height limit when Riverstone already owned the property with 85-foot towers in mind. (This is a plain-English description. If you want the legal language, here is the link: Riverstone Settlement Agreement
Here are the key points in the Riverstone offer, which will be discussed at the county commission meeting on April 24, starting at 6 p.m.
- Riverstone can build 7-story towers within the 85-foot limit. The plan calls for 11 such towers. (Note: the height limit is measured not from the natural grade but from any site prep grade Riverstone creates.)
- The plan calls for 150 luxury units.
- Riverstone offers the same vegetation buffers as in the previous offer.
- Riverstone offers some land for beach parking, restrooms and a connection to the Amelia Island Trail.
- And here is the glaring exception: Upon signing, the county must pay Riverstone $250,000 to cover past legal costs!
“This is so utterly disappointing” said Lyn Pannone, President of the Amelia Tree Conservancy and community activist. “This settlement isn’t just the same settlement that literally hundreds of Nassau County residents protested against when this came up for approval last year, it is now even worse with the addition of a provision requiring the county to pay Riverstone’s legal fees. It’s mystifying to me why Riverstone thinks the county would agree to this in the face of such dissent from the community.”
There have been closed-door deliberations of county officials since the offer was made last week, but it is not known at this time if those deliberations have led to a decision. Community activists are encouraging interested citizens to attend the April 24 meeting and speak their minds. The issue is not on the agenda of the commission’s April 19 meeting (at 9 a.m.), but there is an opportunity on that agenda for non-agenda comments.