Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 9, 2015 5:44 p.m.
The first 2015 meeting of the CRA Advisory Board (CRAAB) of the City of Fernandina Beach got underway on January 8 with a monthly status report on Board goals. Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Robin Lentz joined the group as the commissioner liaison. Arlene Filkoff was seated as a new board member.
Community Redevelopment Agency (“CRA”) refers to a public entity created by a city or county to implement the community redevelopment activities outlined under the Community Redevelopment Act which was enacted in 1969 (Chapter 163, Part III, Florida Statutes). The CRA is established by the local government and functions within that local government. The City Commission sits as the Community Redevelopment Agency and makes all final decisions on actions or expenditures within the CRA (area). Currently, the city of Fernandina Beach has one CRA, the Amelia River Waterfront CRA, bounded by Rayonier Advanced Materials to the South, the Port of Fernandina to the North, the Amelia River to the west, and generally 2nd Street to the east. This CRA was established in 2005. Subsequently, the Fernandina Beach City Commission created the 7-member CRA Advisory Board to advise them on issues including implementation of the CRA Plan by providing recommendations and assistance in identifying and prioritizing projects to be undertaken as consistent with the CRA Plan. The focus of this group is economic development of properties in the CRA and the adjoining Central Business District with specific consideration on attracting and retaining businesses.
Member Andy Curtin reported no new developments on the creation of a Quiet Zone, which would eliminate the need for the blowing of railroad horns at intersections with city streets in the central business area. Curtin said that the city has requested a meeting with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to discuss this matter, but no meeting has been set yet.
Board member Marla McDaniel, charged to report on park development in the CRA, deferred to audience member Eric Bartelt, who said that the city was awaiting clearance from the railroad before moving forward to rearrange parking in the first phase of the waterfront park plan. In response to McDaniel’s question regarding the proposed deck for the marina welcome center, audience member Lynn Williams reported, “It’s all go.” He expanded upon this to remind the board members that the $47K contract recently awarded involves design, engineering and building the proposed deck. Once design has been developed, it must be approved by the city’s Historic District Council, while engineering must pass muster with the city’s Technical Review Committee. In response to a question from Board Member Arlene Filkoff, Bartelt and Williams agreed that the deck project was a city project, not a CRA project. Bartelt stressed that the idea for the deck had been raised more than 2 years ago by local architect Randy Rice for consideration by the Waterfront Advisory Group, of which Bartelt was a member.
Williams added that the welcome center is part of the marina operation. It is a place for boaters to go and relax and for the community to enjoy. He said that the deck will be designed so that it can also be used as a performance venue. Filkoff clarified that the original performance venue planned for a location at the southern end of the park remains in the plan.
CRA Plan amendments
CRAAB Chair Mike Zaffaroni assigned to new member Filkoff the task of identifying the need for amendments to the CRA Plan.
Member Rick Daniel, who had been assigned the task of addressing CRA parking needs, reported that there are signs in place to direct the public to parking, although perhaps some of the signs could be revised. CRAAB Member Lou Goldman asked if anyone had contacted Nassau County to determine if county parking lots at S. 4th and Alachua Streets and behind the Nassau County Courthouse could be used by the public after normal business hours. Daniel agreed to investigate. Progress is continuing as resources permit on another city parking lot at N. 2nd and Broome Streets. When completed, that lot will contain 28 regular spaces and one handicapped space. CRAAB Member Filkoff volunteered to attend the Historic Centre Street Merchants meeting next week to determine if the problem with employee parking on Centre Street has been resolved with increased parking enforcement.
General discussion among the CRAAB members was that there is no readily apparent parking problem, as supported by studies commissioned by the city in the past. Rather, there is a perception of a parking problem when individuals cannot park in front of the business they wish to patronize.
CRAAB Member Lou Goldman, charged with encouraging CRA development, reported that he had been in contact with Dick Goodsell, the owner of the largest share of the CRA property. He reported that as a result of his conversation, he does not think Goodsell will develop the property himself, but that he is working on a plan to market and develop the property. He said that Goodsell might or might not break up the property into smaller parcels.
LDC deterrents to CRA development
CRAAAB Member Dan McCranie had been charged to review current language in the Land Development Code to determine if there were deterrents to development in the code. He provided an extensive report that examined density bonuses permitted for developers who increase public access and use for their projects. McCranie agreed to bring graphics to the next meeting to better illustrate his recommendations. City senior planner Kelly Gibson, who staffs CRAAB meetings, reminded the board members that if some of McCranie’s recommended changes trigger amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, that could result in additional delays to any development projects in planning stages currently.
CRAAB member Filkoff asked the board to consider a new goal: education and communication outreach to the community. She hoped that such a goal would prevent misinformation from circulating in the community. The CRAAB discussed this briefly without making a formal recommendation.
Audience member John Stack, who chairs the Nassau County Planning and Zoning Board, approached the CRAAB to suggest that another way to increase enjoyment of the Amelia Riverfront would be to remove the small building immediately west of Brett’s Waterway Café that currently houses marina operations. He said that the building blocks views of the sunset during certain times of the year. He expressed his belief that a better use of the space would be another viewing platform for the public. Chair Zaffaroni agreed to bring Westrec marina manager Joe Springer to the next meeting to discuss the idea.
CRAAB Chair Mike Zaffaroni will present the CRAAB goals to the Fernandina Beach City Commission at 5:45 p.m. on January 20, 2015. He will emphasize the need to keep pressing on creating the Quiet Zone and building the sidewalk from Centre Street to the Salty Pelican.
The meeting adjourned at 5:00 p.m. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the CRA Advisory Board will be held on Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 3:15 p.m. in Commission Chambers. For more information on the CRA, consult the city’s website www.fbfl.us.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.