“Contract Zoning” Pits County Against Its Citizens

Citizens Against Runaway Development (CARD), together with the Sanctuary Property Owners’ Association, has filed suit against Nassau County for, among other things, engaging in “contract zoning.” This occurs when a governmental body agrees with a private landowner like Riverstone to rezone property for consideration. In this case, the county granted new zoning rules to Riverstone in exchange for a 200-foot parcel of land at the south end of Riverstone’s property.

Instead of following the normal public process for changing zoning requirements, the Nassau County Attorney allegedly negotiated in total secrecy with Riverstone. The resulting agreement gives Riverstone the right to build eleven towers, each at least 85 feet high, on the south end of Amelia Island. It also gives Riverstone a long list of valuable concessions and a cash payment of $250,000.

Nassau County Attorney, Denise May, has retained a law firm in Tampa to defend the county. She is asking the citizen groups complaining of contract zoning and other things to pay all attorney fees incurred by the county.

The county is also asking Riverstone to join the suit against the citizen groups on Amelia Island. Presumably, the county will then ask the citizen groups to pay any legal fees incurred by Riverstone.

In its response filed with the court, the county has not addressed the allegations that it engaged in contract zoning and other wrongdoing.

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Betsie Huben
Famed Member
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
11 months ago

Sooooo – let me see if I understand today’s “news” correctly. The folks that we, the people of Nassau County elected to represent us as our commissioners skipped over the zoning process that we, the people of Nassau County must abide by and made a deal with a developer for cash and prizes in exchange for 200 feet of land on the south end of Amelia and a guarantee of the demolition of 50 acres of our barrier island’s maritime forest. Further, our elected officials were assisted and counseled in their efforts to make this deal by the county attorney who’s salary is paid for by we, the people of Nassau County. Finally, it appears that this deal was intentionally negotiated behind closed doors so that we, the people of Nassau County, and very specifically those of us who live near the proposed resort development, have no say and could not see which commissioners voted to move forward in this way. Stunning! If I’ve read this information correctly, this is a travesty of representative government in Nassau County. A quick shout out to my friends out in Hilliard, Bryceville and Callahan. Take note & be warned! If this kind of thing can happen to us folks east of 95, it can happen to your communities too.

Robert Weintraub
Trusted Member
Robert Weintraub(@rukbat23gmail-com)
11 months ago

Betsy, that is exactly correct! We have to support the citizen groups fighting the county.