Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm

Reporter – News Analyst

Fernandina Beach City Commission July 15, 2014
Fernandina Beach City Commission July 15, 2014

At their second Regular Meeting of the month on July 15, 2014, Fernandina Beach City Commissioners (FBCC) handled a relatively light, non-controversial agenda.  The 4-item Consent Agenda was passed unanimously with no discussion.  Likewise, 7 Resolutions passed unanimously with little discussion except for Resolution 2014-97 dealing with possible legal action in connection with prematurely failing roads within the Isle de Mai subdivision.  Five ordinances dealing with land use and land development code changes were passed unanimously on second and final reading with little or no FBCC discussion.  Only one member of the public rose to ask a question about one of the ordinances during quasi judicial public hearings.

Ray Price addresses health and safety issued related to horse rentals on city beaches.
Ray Price addresses health and safety issued related to horse rentals on city beaches.

Horses on city beaches

During Public Input, Fletcher Avenue resident Ray Price rose to complain about the conduct and consequences of bad behavior by businesses that rent horses on city beaches.  He reported that not all the vendors are licensed by the city and that city ordinances governing both hours of operation and requirements to clean up after the horses are not being consistently followed.  He said that the horses defecate and urinate in tidal pools, where children often play.  At high tide, the horses and beach goers jointly occupy a narrow stretch of beach, creating a dangerous, unhealthy situation for both the horses and people.

Price commended the Fernandina Beach Police Department (FBPD) for their quick response to complaint calls, but said that he believed the officers probably had better uses for their time.  He added that when people complain, they are routinely intimidated, harassed and treated to verbal abuse from the vendors.

Price reported that he has observed horse handlers “clean-up” efforts that have included throwing waste into the ocean, leading horses into tidal pools or the ocean to relieve themselves and worst of all, having a dog with a rope around its neck drag a clean-up cart along the beach behind the horses.  Price said that such a situation hardly presents an image of the community that tourists should see.

City Commissioners expressed surprise, but City Manager Joe Gerrity explained that the city has been trying to work with the vendors to get them all licensed and to follow the ordinance requirements.  The vendors are supposed to clean up after their animals and not dispose of waste by burying it in the sand or throwing it in the ocean.

Ray Price and his son listen as Chief Hurley responds to problems law enforcement has encountered with horse owners.
Ray Price and his son listen as Chief Hurley responds to commissioner questions about problems law enforcement has encountered with horse owners.

FBPD Chief James Hurley also addressed the commissioners, advising them that under the current ordinance, horses are allowed on the beach between Sadler Road and Peters Point.  He reiterated that officers respond to complaints involving confrontations between horse owners and beach goers.  He has made repeated attempts to contact horse owners, educate them on the need for permits and the ordinance requirements to operate such a business on city beaches.

City Manager Gerrity said that the horse rentals are an on-going problem and that the vendors “push and push and push” against the city.  He said that perhaps time has come to revisit the ordinance governing this activity.

In response to a question from Commissioner Charlie Corbett, Hurley said that currently there are five permitted vendors, and each vendor may rent out 3-8 horses.

Commissioner Johnny Miller suggested that perhaps the enabling ordinance should be repealed.

It was the consensus of the commissioners to place the matter on the agenda of the next regular meeting for further discussion.

isle de maiIsle de Mai Road Failures

City Attorney Tammi Bach requested and received permission via unanimous approval of Resolution 2014-97 to pursue claims against any and all responsible parties for design and installation of prematurely failing roads within the Isle de Mai subdivision.  On or about August 5, 2004, the city accepted roads within the Isle de Mai subdivision through approval of a final plat.  On or about May 1, 2014, the City discovered that Spanish Way East and Spanish Way West, public roads within the subdivision, are prematurely failing due to being designed and constructed in a negligent manner, causing the roads to be saturated with ground water which compromises the integrity and functionality of the roads.  The city estimates that the cost to the City to reconstruct these roads may exceed $200K.  According to the staff report, the City has the option of reconstructing the roads and not pursuing legal action.  But city staff believes that engineers, contractors and the subdivision developers are responsible for the premature road failures.  Bach told commissioners that the city needed to pursue legal action by August 4 to avoid any claims being time barred by statute of limitations.  Bach also indicated that there was some litigation going on within the subdivision.

Janet Dunnegan thanks FBCC for support of Isle de Mai complaints over road failures.
Janet Dunnegan thanks FBCC for support of Isle de Mai complaints over road failures.

Isle de Mai resident Janet Dunnegan rose to thank the FBCC for taking action.  She reported that she goes on regular walks throughout the subdivision and has observed the situation worsening.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the City Attorney’s request to pursue legal action.

Ordinances approved unanimously on second and final reading

Joan Bean questions reason for zoning change at Gateway Complex.
Joan Bean questions reason for zoning change at Gateway Complex.

Ordinances 2014-09 and 2014-11, both following from the recent annexation of the parcel known as the Gateway Complex, changed county land use and zoning designations to city designations.  Local resident Joan Bean asked whether the ordinance changed land use or impacted wetlands.  City Attorney Tammi Bach assured Bean that the ordinances were routine with annexations and were unrelated to wetlands.  When Bean questioned the effect of the law suit filed by the property owners opposing annexation, Bach replied that at the current time the property has been annexed into the city, so city codes and regulations apply.

Ordinance 2014-19 assigned a zoning category of Conservation (CON) to 14.53 acres located on Ocean Avenue between Dolphin Street and East 9th Street.  In error the parcels had been zoned R-2, (medium density residential), when the underlying Future Land use designation reflected Conservation.  Most of the land in question consisted of substandard lots and unbuildable lots.

Ordinance 2014-20 amended the Land Development Code to add a new use for craft distillery and small-scale wineries and breweries.

Ordinance 2014-21 amended the Land Development Code by adding revisions for hospital supplemental standards.  The changes allow for hospital height of 60 feet and off site signage.  The modifications were recommended in anticipation of the annexation into the city of Baptist Hospital Nassau.  The changes will accommodate existing approved development of the hospital and reflect development requirements in use in Nassau County.

Board Appointments

The FBCC unanimously approved the reappointments of Sam Lane and David Dully to serve additional 3-year terms on the Airport Advisory Commission.


Mayor Ed Boner and City Manager Joe Gerrity
Mayor Ed Boner and City Manager Joe Gerrity

City Manager Gerrity reported that he had received a letter from the Federal Aviation Authority expressing satisfaction over the city’s handling of a Chapter 13 complaint.  Gerrity said that the city continues to work on addressing the matters.  He also reported that commissioners should be receiving budget books next week in anticipation of upcoming budget workshops.

Commissioner Charlie Corbett and Vice Mayor Sarah Pelican deliver praise for July 4th Fireworks.
Commissioner Charlie Corbett and Vice Mayor Sarah Pelican deliver praise for July 4th Fireworks.

Vice Mayor Sarah Pelican reported on the successful July 4th fireworks.  She said that Community First Credit Union has signed on as a fireworks sponsor, pledging $5,000 per year for five years.  She thanked all who contributed to the successful show.  Commissioner Charlie Corbett joined her in praising this year’s fireworks display, which lasted longer than usual.  He added that there was a good turnout at city activities the entire day.

Commissioner Pat Gass again commended 8th Street business owners that have assumed responsibility for maintaining state and/or city rights-of way in front of their businesses.  She said that if all businesses agreed to do so, the city would be well on its way to improving the appearance of the 8th Street entrance to the city.

Commissioner Johnny Miller renewed his concern addressed at the June 24 Budget Workshop, asking his fellow commissioners if the city can afford to keep a municipal golf course.  He reported that he had been working with Gerrity on gathering some information and asked for a special meeting to be convened to discuss the future of the golf course.  Corbett jumped in, reminding commissioners that the BCG management contract still has two years to run.  It was the consensus of the FBCC to hold a special meeting on the topic, and Gerrity agreed to set something up.

Mayor Ed Boner reported on the continuing success of the Friends of the Library’s fundraising campaign, which has them very close to meeting their goal.

The meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Items not on the agenda, still unresolved

City Attorney Tammi Bach and Mayor Ed Boner
City Attorney Tammi Bach and Mayor Ed Boner

While many city watchers expected to see signs of a settlement agreement over the impact fee lawsuit, that was not to be.  There had been a flurry of special meetings and Executive Sessions over the last few weeks dealing with the bond validation case and class action appeal.  One of those meetings preceded the Regular Meeting, but no move was made to expand the agenda on an emergency basis to take action.

There was no further discussion of accepting the time-sensitive offer of $50K from Billy Casper Golf (BCG) in return for a 5-year management contract extension.  During the FY2014/15 Budget Workshop held on June 24, 2014, BCG expressed its commitment to partnering with the city to ensure Fernandina the long-term success of the municipal golf course.  To that end, BCG expressed a willingness to contribute $50,000 toward renovation of the West Course greens to begin no later than August 15, 2014.  They believe that this would increase revenue potential heading into the fall and winter seasons.  Their offer is contingent upon extending the city’s management contract with BCG for an additional five years.   City Manager Joe Gerrity reminded commissioners that it is highly unusual for a management company to offer to invest in a client’s facility, since that is the client’s responsibility.  It remains to be seen whether the FBCC will pursue this potential agreement or ignore it, thereby leaving BCG’s current contract in place for its remaining 2 years.  Gerrity said that he would meet with BCG representatives.  There remains only one regular meeting for the FBCC to take action to accept BCG’s offer if planting is to be done by the last effective date.

There was no report on the status of the contract with the second airport fixed base operation, 8 Flags Aviation.

There was also no update or discussion over the status of MLK Center bathroom renovation and expansion.  Vice Mayor Sarah Pelican raised this matter at the July 1, 2014 FBCC meeting.  At that time City Manager Gerrity reported that the contractor had indicated that $15K over the bid amount authorized was needed to do the job.

Old Town resident Michael Harrison asks for update on Estrada Street gate.
Old Town resident Michael Harrison asks for update on Estrada Street gate.

According to City Attorney Bach, there has been no action toward resolving the dispute with Rock Tenn over the gate on Estrada Street.  Old Town resident Michael Harrison rose during public input to ask for a status report.  Bach informed him that as soon as the press of other work allows, she will send a letter to Rock Tenn’s attorney to state the city’s position.



Other items passed unanimously at July 15, 2013 Regular FBCC Meeting identified by Agenda number:

5.1       APPROVAL OF MINUTES – Special Meeting – June 26, 2014; Special Meeting – July 1, 2014; Regular Meeting – July 1, 2014. 

5.2       LEASE AGREEMENT – BOY SCOUT TROOP 89, INC. – RESOLUTION 2014-88 APPROVING A 20-YEAR LEASE AGREEMENT WITH BOY SCOUT TROOP 89, INC. FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT CENTRAL PARK; PROVIDING FOR EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the 20-year Lease Agreement between the City of Fernandina Beach and Boy Scout Troop 89, Inc. for their use of the property located at Central Park. 

5.3       AGREEMENT EXTENSION – CERES ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC. – RESOLUTION 2014-89 APPROVING THE EXTENSION OF THE EXISTING CONTRACT WITH CERES ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC. FOR A PERIOD OF THREE (3) ONE (1) YEAR EXTENSIONS FOR DISASTER RECOVERY AND DEBRIS REMOVAL SERVICES; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the extended contract with Ceres Environmental Services, Inc. to be the City’s primary provider of disaster recovery and debris removal services for an additional three (3) one (1) year extensions.  


7.1       BUDGET AMENDMENTS – FIRE / POLICE / CITY CLERK – RESOLUTION 2014-91 APPROVING AMENDMENTS TO THE BUDGET FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2013-2014; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the transfer of funds within the Fire Department, Police Department, and City Clerk’s Office budget for FY 2013/2014 due to higher than anticipated costs.

7.2       BUDGET AMENDMENT – GOLF COURSE – RESOLUTION 2014-92 APPROVING AN AMENDMENT TO THE BUDGET FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2013-2014; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the transfer of funds from the General Fund to the Golf Course for FY 2013/2014 due to lower than anticipated revenues. 

7.3       PURCHASE APPROVAL – TRANE OF JACKSONVILLE / BUDGET AMENDMENTS – GOLF COURSE – RESOLUTION 2014-93 APPROVING THE PURCHASE AND INSTALLATION OF AN AIR CONDITIONER SYSTEM FROM TRANE OF JACKSONVILLE IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $36,950; APPROVE TWO BUDGET TRANSFERS; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Authorizes the purchase of a replacement air conditioner system from Trane of Jacksonville in an amount not to exceed $36,950 in accordance with the Duval County Public Schools purchase agreement DCPS RFP N. 03-12/LG – HVAC Maintenance Contract (piggybacking) along with 2 budget transfers.

7.4       SOLE SOURCE PURCHASE APPROVAL – ETR, LLCRESOLUTION 2014-94 APPROVING PURCHASES THAT WILL EXCEED $20,000 FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013/2014 FROM ETR, LLC; APPROVING ETR, LLC AS A SOLE SOURCE PROVIDER; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves ETR, LLC as a sole source vendor for the purchase of parts and services for Fire equipment in excess of $20,000 in FY 2013/2014.

7.5       TASK ORDER #2014-01 – OLSEN ASSOCIATES, INC. – RESOLUTION 2014-95 APPROVING TASK ORDER #2014-01 WITH OLSEN ASSOCIATES, INC. IN THE AMOUNT OF $30,000 FOR THE NASSAU COUNTY SHORE PROTECTION PROJECT; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves Task Order #2014-01 with Olsen Associates, Inc. for Coastal Engineering Services for Beach Management.




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Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown (@guest_20322)
8 years ago

Hi, I am reading about the Gate removal in Old Town. Just why does Mr.Harrison want the gate removed. What does he or the other residences there gain from such a move ??? Is the gate on Mr. Harrison’s property? Does it restrict his view or bring his property values down ? I thought the gate was there to keep people out of Rock Tenn’s Property .

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_20324)
8 years ago

Not sure about the horses on the beach, but in New York City’s Central Park there are about 68 carriage horses which translate to about 680 lbs of–guess what? They solve the problem by making the horses wear dropping bags. These are basically bags on the back end of the horse to catch all the grass they ate from the day before. It seems like too simple of a fix doesn’t it? Seems to work for the 68o lbs of old grass in NYC. Would it work here? May be a good idea to meet with the horse owners and see what they have in mind that would fix this problem. It seems like a sweet solution to an otherwise crappy problem.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_20332)
8 years ago

If you look through the FO archives you will see background stories about the gate that provide the details. My understanding is that the gate is on City property and blocks a City right of way. I also understand that the gate provides no real security purpose since it can easily be skirted. Seems to be one of those situations with the potential like the sidewalk to nowhere where if the City doesn’t exercise its claim to the property the private property owner will go on treating it like it is theirs.

Tony, the catch bag certainly is the best solution for the horse manure but I don’t think they do anything for the #1 issue. I have never seen people riding on the City property only those that trailer at Peter’s Point but guess they are riding up.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_20340)
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

Dave, couldn’t agree with you more on the leakage issue when it comes to the horses. I guess from a practical standpoint liquid would evaporate or be absorbed faster than a solid. Not sure if I would even know if I stepped in anything wet other than water at the beach, but I do know when I step in S&%$# . LOL I have seen many horses ride along city property. Actually it’s kind of nice to see and they have always been friendly to talk to. —Not the horses, the people on them

Jennifer Harrison
Jennifer Harrison(@drjsharrisoncomcast-net)
8 years ago

Thanks to Kathy Brown for asking questions about the Gate in Old Town and many thanks to Dave Lott for giving an accurate account of the situation. The land behind the gate is a city street which was never vacated. The mill was given temporary permission by the city in 1996 to place a gate across the street while installing a well. That has long been completed and city residents have been prevented from accessing and using this area since then as the mill refuses to remove the gate. All requests to remove the gate by the city attorney and mayor have been ignored. Thanks to the city commission for pressing for the return of this public land to public use.
*The mill is denying access to city property.
*The gate does not provide any security for the mill.
*The mill does not use the land.
*Old Town residents have community uses planned for this area.
*Documents and title deeds prove city ownership.
*The Historic Spanish grid of Old Fernandina is compromised.

Pam Hart
Pam Hart (@guest_20399)
8 years ago

Sounds like overkill about the horses. They are walking along the worlds most efficient and natural sewage system. The horses are beautiful and I for one love seeing them on the beaches. People who visit Fernandina are fascinated with them. I think the people who complain about the horses will soon find something else to complain about. In the beach community where my husband grew up, Naples FL, the same type people seriously tried to pass an ordinance to prohibit frisbee throwing on the beach. Horses have long been a part of Fernandina beach. Those that don’t like them can find other beaches to frequent. They might even be able to find one that doesn’t allow horses, dogs or frisbees!

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_20402)
8 years ago

I have to agree that the horses are walking along the worlds best sewer system. The problem is most don’t want their kids and grand-kids playing in the same sewer system. You are also right where this can become overkill. I like to see the horses on the beach. I think most of us do. I have found the owners to be more than friendly and when the kids want to pet the horses they are always willing to extend themselves for a few minutes. I think the problem comes from one simple fact. Some may say it’s all horse crap, but if I was to guess it is a bunch of horse crap. We expect our dog owners to clean up after Rover, why wouldn’t we expect the same clean up after Mr Ed? It seems like a fixable problem that shouldn’t as you said become “overkill.” Many cities have horses and they use drop bags to catch what is coming from the south end of a north bound horse. Why can’t we look into this? It would keep the beaches clean, the complaints down, and the kids happy.

Pam Hart
Pam Hart (@guest_20406)
8 years ago

So then horse owners can be like dog owners who pick up something 100 percent biodegradable that could just be covered up with sand and instead is picked up in plastic bags that go into our landfills. This is not like LA where it is a concrete jungle and scooping the poop is the only practical thing to do. Parents are allowing their children to walk amongst dead fish and horseshoe crabs and whatever two legged creatures have left on the beach and in the ocean and swim in what is the natural sewer system of every marine animal. Salt water takes care of a lot of bacteria. And you can’t avoid it anywhere. Watch where you walk and use some common sense. Easy solution.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_20430)
8 years ago

Sorry, but yes, just like dog owners I feel horse owners should pick up after the animals. I agree many dead fish, crabs, and all sorts of nasty stuff is by the beach. We need not add to it. I also agree common sense plays a big part of what we need to do. I guess my grandkids, you know, the 2 and 3 and 4 year olds aren’t like all the other kids that age who are lucky enough to have been born with that amount of common sense. They also have this childlike habit of running around and playing and not really looking at where they step, what they step in, what they play with, and what they put in their mouths.— I know they should be supervised 100 % of the time.
I also never suggested the use of plastic bags that go into landfills. I am against the use of plastic bags and actively involved with restricting them. I have only spoke of drop bags. They are canvas like bags, do not go into landfills and can be emptied back at the stables. What could be easier, safer and cleaner that that?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x