Citizens Sue County Over Riverstone Settlement

The Citizens Against Runaway Development (“CARD”) filed suit against Nassau County yesterday in the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court. The suit seeks to prevent a settlement agreement between Nassau County and Riverstone Properties, LLC, from becoming effective. That agreement was approved (4 to 1) by the Nassau Board of County Commissioners on April 24, 2023. Only Commissioner McCullough dissented.

CARD was formed in response to widespread citizen outrage over runaway development on Amelia Island and the County’s unwillingness to defend itself from developers who threaten litigation. The purpose of the organization is to preserve and protect the natural beauty of Amelia Island.

Under the approved agreement Riverstone would be allowed to build eleven towers at least 85 feet high, despite an existing ordinance limiting such structures to 45 feet. The County has also voluntarily surrendered many important rights to Riverstone, including:

  • The right to measure building heights from finished grade, which can be much higher than the existing natural grade.
  • Freedom, in perpetuity, from any future county ordinances involving zoning.
  • The right to erect at least four lighted billboards (13 feet high) along scenic portions of A1A.
  • Freedom, in perpetuity, from any future county ordinances involving tree protection.
  • Setbacks for 85-foot towers as narrow as 25 feet from adjacent property lines.
  • Tax credits of more than $11,000,000 for donating eight acres of the property which include lowland, wetland, and unbuildable land.
  • The right to build within only 20 feet of the state’s Coastal Control Line.

As alleged in CARD’s suit against the County, the agreement constitutes “illegal contract zoning.” Contract zoning is an agreement by a government body with a private landowner to rezone property for consideration. In this case eight acres including lowland and wetland at the south end of the Riverstone property have been offered in exchange for special zoning and development privileges. As alleged in the complaint, secret negotiations between the County Attorney and Riverstone have replaced the normal zoning processes involving the County’s planning staff, impact studies, public notices, public hearings and so forth.

If the suit is successful, it could also stop payment of $250,000 to Riverstone from the County. Nassau County Attorney Denise May recommended that a quarter million dollars be paid to Riverstone to reimburse its attorney’s fees spent taking the County to court.  Commissioners Martin, Huppman, Gray and Farmer approved that request, without substantive comment or question, at their meeting on April 24.

The Sanctuary Property Owners’ Association has also joined as a plaintiff in this action.

Anyone interested in learning more about CARD or supporting its efforts can visit the website:

CARD will endeavor to keep citizens posted concerning all events involving the recently filed suit. The Nassau County government will not do so.

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John Rasmussen
John Rasmussen (@guest_69971)
9 months ago

Looking at the commission’s giveaway “Stupid is as stupid does

Drew Skonberg, DC
Drew Skonberg, DC(@skonberg)
9 months ago

Bravo, glad this is happening. Make government hold to the will of what I’d estimate to be much more than a supermajority. Make government accountable at a grassroots level.

Steve Gibbs
Steve Gibbs (@guest_69974)
9 months ago

We moved here four years ago to escape runaway development in Key Largo and its proximity to an ever-expanding Miami. The best way to ruin a small beachside town is to cave in to developers and allow them to turn our island into Fort Lauderdale. Time for user-friendly commissioners with cojones. Thank you Commissioner McCullough for looking after the locals. No thanks to the rest of you.

PerryL (@guest_70062)
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Gibbs

Hahahaha! “I’m here now so no one else should be able to come!”

Margo Story
Margo Story (@guest_69976)
9 months ago

County commissioners except Martin live off the island, they don’t care……

Eli (@guest_70063)
9 months ago
Reply to  Margo Story

Not entirely true. McCullough, lives off island and while I don’t see eye to eye with her on a lot of things, I do know that she cares deeply about the environment and Nassau County as a whole. The rest of them are spineless and owe us all an explanation for their actions.

Marilyn Laite
Marilyn Laite (@guest_69981)
9 months ago

how many more developments are they going to approve, everyone is already talking about getting paid under the table to get what the developers want. I hope this is not true but when you see the Island being overbuilt and project being approved that were never meant to be than iit makes you wonder.

9 months ago

Does money donated to the Hail Mary attempt to buy the property instead go to pay the lawyers?

Lyn Pannone
Lyn Pannone(@lyn-pannone)
9 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

The money being raised by CARD will be used to pay legal fees and other related expenses. Any funds remaining will be put toward conservation projects on the island.. We are not attempting to buy the property.

Steve Duff
Steve Duff (@guest_70004)
9 months ago

My wife and I fled the big city sprawl, corrupt government, traffic, murder, woke and everything else that’s making Americans flee their “homes” and start fresh in a great place like Amelia Island, please don’t destroy it too. We’re running out of places to retreat to, we retreated from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. What happens when you can no longer retreat? Think about it or just wait, the answer will come to you soon enough.