Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
March 31, 2015 12:12 p.m.
Only four members of the Fernandina Beach Planning Advisory Board (PAB) turned out for the advertised workshop convened on March 30, 2015 to continue discussion of Case 2014-21, submitted last year by two local citizens desiring to amend the city’s Land Development Code (LDC). Applicants Chip Ross and Chuck Hall have offered amendments to Section 1.07.00 (Definitions) and Section 2.03.02 (Table of Land Uses) regulating certain hazardous materials and placing limitations on any future cruise ship terminal. They filed this application last fall following public outcry over the Ocean Highway and Port Authority’s publication of a Draft Master Plan for the Port of Fernandina in June 2014.
PAB Chair Len Kreger reminded PAB members and the handful of audience members that the purpose of the workshop was to seek clarification from the applicant, not to vote various provisions up or down. Even so, the few people who provided public comment following each item, spoke in favor of the proposed amendments.
The PAB will hold one final workshop on April 8, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. This workshop, originally scheduled for earlier that afternoon, has been rescheduled to the time of the regular PAB meeting, which has been cancelled. The PAB will hold its final meeting on this case on April 14, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. During that meeting the PAB will decide whether to support, support with modifications, or reject this application. The PAB recommendations will be forwarded to the Fernandina Beach City Commission for consideration and final decision in May.
During the March 30 workshop, co-applicant Chip Ross walked the PAB through each new or changed definition of use being proposed for the city’s Land Development Code. He also indicated in which zoning district, if any, he proposed allowing such use to be permitted. The application and associated documents are available as attachments to PAB agendas http://www.fbfl.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/03042015-856?html=true and http://www.fbfl.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/03302015-886?html=true
Co-applicant Chip Ross, a PAB member himself, has recused himself in order to present the application to the Board. He has been clear at each meeting that he is representing only himself and that others may not share his views. He has modified his application over time following discussions with mill representatives and others.
Because of the regular changes to the application, PAB Chair Kreger clarified that the PAB was considering the February 26, 2015 revised document as the final document. Ross explained that although he had submitted a later document, changes were relatively minor: he removed notes from the Table of Land Uses, added a definition for paper mill and eliminated some superfluous definitions. Senior City Planner Kelly Gibson advised PAB members that she will not issue a revised staff report.
During the March 30th workshop, Ross proposed to limit bulk storage yards for flammable materials to two Industrial zones (I-1 and I-W) and completely prohibit coal transfer facilities, fruit and vegetable fumigation facilities, phosphate facilities, petroleum refineries and liquefied natural gas (LNG) marine fueling stations. He also proposed adding definitions for heavy and light manufacturing facilities, and allowing heavy manufacturing only in Industrial zoning district I-1. With respect to each proposed restricted or not permitted use, Ross posed the question to the PAB: Does the land use regulation for this particular use protect and promote the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Fernandina Beach?
Audience members Faith Ross, Phil Scanlan, Medardo Monzon and Guy Petty endorsed Ross’ proposals. Both Faith Ross and Phil Scanlan spoke following each specific proposal, offering additional information and/or questions.
As in previous workshops, audience members stood firm in opposing the creation of a cruise ship terminal to handle ships with more than 500 passengers. People saw little or no benefit to local businesses from such activity, citing the increased traffic and parking needs that such activity would bring to Amelia Island. PAB Chair Kreger said that the site being touted as a potential cruise ship terminal is the former pogey plant site at the north end of 14th Street adjacent to the public boat ramp park. He said that this particular parcel is located in the county, as opposed to the city, and that it does not have infrastructure to support cruise ship terminal activity.
Audience member Phil Scanlan reminded the PAB that Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach are not comparable to larger cities that host larger industrial and port facilities, which are located at a distance from residential areas. He said that the PAB in weighing this application must look out for the welfare of the entire island, its residential areas and the burgeoning tourism industry. He echoed Ross’ concerns about the increased truck traffic that more industrialization would bring.
OHPA Chair Richard Bruce attended part of the workshop, but there were no speakers from the mills, who have raised objections to the process by which the Ross-Hall application is being processed by the city.
PAB Member Mark Bennett will chair the April 8 workshop in the absence of both Chair Kreger and Vice Chair Judith Lane.
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.