By Mike Phillips
It could have been a fracas. But it wasn’t.
The open house at Fernandina Beach City Hall last evening was potentially port people versus neighborhood people. Both groups were well represented. Though it was billed as a way for the port’s new master plan writers to do some community research, it turned out to be an opportunity for two groups of people, with a history of mutual mistrust, to make some progress together.
And a few issues, though informally, actually were resolved.
For instance, port people had been floating an idea of creating an elaborate route for truck traffic to come in on Dade, go out on Escambia, cross a small marsh and go on from there.
For people living inside that loop, the idea felt like a noose of truck traffic around their homes. As conversations between port people and neighborhood people buzzed around the City Council chamber, it became obvious that this idea wasn’t going to fly. After all, how long and difficult an environmental impact process would be needed to get those trucks over that marsh?
One question that surfaced was why the port owns two lots on the east side of north 3rd Street that are zoned residential? Parking lots must have been on someone’s mind at the time of purchase, but that was then. And now? Port people haven’t thought about it much, but they aren’t so sure that ownership of those lots is a good idea. More discussion needed.
A great deal of discussion had to do with extending the main wharf a bit on its south end to give more secure moorage for today’s bigger vessels. Many fingers from both sides of the discussion traced the lines on the wall chart and got the point, Score one for the port people. The idea made sense.
This was not the usual formal presentation-and-response affair. It was as casual as the people who attended in shorts and T-shirts. But it was democracy in action.
And, in its civility, it was very Fernandina Beach.