Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 17, 2018 11:00 p.m.
Three of the most misunderstood concepts in local government here in Fernandina Beach include: Enterprise Funds, Affordable Housing and Density.
Regardless of the number of times such concepts are explained, whether in print or at meetings, people seem to prefer believing anything but the true explanations of what can, admittedly, be complex subjects.
But hands down the biggest misunderstanding among local residents and visitors is geographic in nature: the boundaries of the city of Fernandina Beach vs. Amelia Island vs. the 32034 Zip Code. Those of us who frequent city areas heavily populated by visitors are routinely asked questions like: “How do I get to Amelia Island?” But more discouraging is that not even all the people who live here comprehend that Fernandina Beach is an incorporated city on the northern half of Amelia Island. While it shares a zip code with the unincorporated southern half of the island, there are different rules and services in each of the jurisdictions. A quick glance at a tax bill should clear up any confusion: if you pay city taxes, you live in the city. If you don’t, you are not a city resident.
Over time and with population growth west of the island, the situation has only gotten worse. The confusion is not now limited to island residents. People who live in the unincorporated county areas of Nassauville, O’Neil and parts of Yulee have a mailing address of Fernandina Beach and share the island’s 32034 Zip Code.
The difference between the political boundary and the ZIP Code boundary is routinely ignored by TV news reporters who often headline stories as Fernandina Beach when in fact the event they are reporting occurred off the island. It is also sometimes intentionally ignored by developers and commercial interests that include the words “Amelia Island” in the names of their businesses and subdivisions to add what they believe to be a cachet that will command higher prices.
But don’t be fooled. There is only one Fernandina Beach, and it is a city on Amelia Island. And there is only one Amelia Island, and it is separated from the Nassau County mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Shave Bridge. If you did not need to get home from Jacksonville or I-95 via a bridge over water, you do not live on Amelia Island or in Fernandina Beach. Enough said?
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.