By Wes Wolfe
April 21, 2022
It’s an administrative act to allow the money to be spent, Nassau’s county manager said.
A process meant to direct money toward the American Beach Historic Park appeared to get caught up in an ongoing lack of trust between American Beach residents and Nassau County officials.
The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners’ Wednesday morning meetings typically don’t carry controversial topics. Those issues are more suited to evening meetings that are more convenient for public attendance.
The agenda item in question looked at whether to allow the Board Chairman to sign financial action forms for use of impact fees for development of the American Beach Historic Park development, along with the Tributary Community Park.
“Me and (County Manager) Taco (Pope) spoke about this yesterday, this American Beach thing,” Commissioner Klynt Farmer said. “Obviously we received some emails about this, and I just wanted to get some Board discussion on it. I think American Beach residents are not on board with what we’re suggesting. I don’t think some of them have been brought up to speed with that plan.”
There are $303,549 available in impact funds for the American Beach park project, according to the Board’s impact fee usage justification memo.
“According to the latest population estimates from the Bureau of Economic Business and Research (BEBR), Nassau grew by an extraordinary rate of 4.92% last year (2019-2020),” County staff stated in the memo from December 2021. “This growth rate ranks Nassau as the 4th fastest growing county in the state (by % growth). Further, for counties with a population of 80,000 or more, Nassau is the 2nd fastest growing county in the state (by % growth).
“This year-over-year growth rate is not an anomaly. Over the coming decade (2020-2030), the BEBR predicts Nassau will be the sixth fastest growing county in the state of Florida (by %) with a projected population expansion of 36% resulting in over 121,600 people calling Nassau home by 2030.”
Therefore, according to the memo, the county needs to construct a park system for new and additional capacity to meet that growth.
“In last year’s budget, the ’21-’22 budget — current year budget — the Board allocated a little over $300,000 toward improvements at the American Beach Historic Park, which is inclusive of Evans’ Rendezvous, as well as the lands adjacent,” Pope said.
“We are in the process of finishing a community master-planning exercise. The study’s about 90% finished — it hasn’t been published yet. Today’s action, in order for us to spend impact fee dollars, the Board has to approve (a) impact fee justification form. There isn’t a specific project tied to the money.”
It’s an administrative act to allow the money to be spent, he noted.
“If it’s the Board’s desire to not move forward with this impact fee justification form at this point in time, that’s 100% fine, and when there’s a project, we can bring it back,” Pope said.
An American Beach resident subsequently asked the board to do that.
“I serve as a member of the American Beach Property Owners’ Association, and it is unfortunate that this item is being presented,” Gregg Street resident Tony Nelson said. “We as a board, and as a community, had no knowledge of this action, but more importantly, no knowledge of what Mr. Pope just mentioned, a master plan that’s being developed.
“Certainly if there’s a plan being developed, we, as a board, are not aware of it.”
They participated in a couple workshops, he said, but haven’t been able to see any report.
“We are operating at a … disadvantage, in that the item that is being presented today, that we as a community don’t know anything about,” Nelson said. “It may be good. We don’t know because we have not been involved to understand what’s taking place. We would request that nothing be taking place regarding American Beach without the inclusion and conversation of the American Beach Property Owners’ (Association) Board, and for our community.”
They’re appreciative of the possible million-dollar investment in the community, he said, but that community wants to have a say in that process.
Pope said there was actually a significant amount of public outreach during the master plan development phase, which isn’t over, as he pointed out earlier in the meeting that the report isn’t complete.
“To foster trust with the American Beach community, I would say as long as we, on the record, can agree that we will not allocate that money somewhere else, then if it makes the community feel better for us to defer it, let’s go ahead and defer it until after the … study is made available and the American Beach community can provide their feedback on that,” Commissioner John Martin said.
Commissioners ultimately decided waiting was the better option and struck the American Beach language from the motion.