Board of County Commissioners tackle lawsuits, roads, conservation, and more

By Cindy Jackson
Reporter
February 14, 2019 8:03 a.m.

Commissioners Aaron Bell and Pat Edwards.

Development was front and center at the February 11, 2019 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners. Discussions ranged from a representative from the Yulee Historic Council indicating the desire of that organization to turn the old depot into a museum, a proposed partnership with the Trust for Public Lands to assist the County in land conservation efforts, issues with rights-of-way (ROW) on a number of roads across the County, an ordinance allowing for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) with the expressed goal being more affordable housing options, and amendments to the final development plan for Phase 1 of the Three Rivers community.

Attorney Gregory T. Stewart

In addition, the ever-so controversial Wildlight development, the East Nassau Stewardship District (ENSD) and related hot button issues did not go unmentioned. Gregory T. Stewart, attorney with the law firm of Nabors, Giblin and Nickerson, addressed the commissioners summarizing the many complaints and lawsuits that have been filed against the County by various Raydient entities. Stewart talked of the special Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) created by the board in October 2018 which Rayonier has contested and also the rights and responsibilities of the ENSD and the County as outlined in HB 1075, the legislation that created the special district. The County has indicated that it would like to see changes made in the enabling legislation and expressed this desire to Senator Aaron Bean and Representative Cord Byrd earlier this year.

In the course of his explanations, Mr. Stewart stated, “the legislature does not like governments suing other governments” referencing the fact the ENSD recently weighed-in as an intervenor in one of the court cases. Stewart then cited Chapter 164 of the Florida statutes, which is referred to as the “Florida Governmental Conflict Resolution Act.”

164.102  The purpose and intent of this act is to promote, protect, and improve the public health, safety, and welfare and to enhance intergovernmental coordination efforts by the creation of a governmental conflict resolution procedure that can provide an equitable, expeditious, effective, and inexpensive method for resolution of conflicts between and among local and regional governmental entities. It is the intent of the Legislature that conflicts between governmental entities be resolved to the greatest extent possible without litigation.

Read on and the process to resolve the conflict is also spelled out:

164.1052 Initiation of conflict resolution procedure; duty to give notice.
(1) The governing body of a governmental entity shall initiate the conflict resolution procedures provided by this act through passage of a resolution by its members.

Nassau County Commissioners voted 5-0 to initiate those proceedings with a motion by Commissioner Danny Leeper and a second by Commissioner Pat Edwards.

The Florida statute also articulates the timing . . . “Within 10 days after receiving a copy of a certified letter noticing the initiation of the conflict resolution procedure, other governmental entities receiving the notice may elect to participate in the conflict resolution process, but are not entitled by virtue of that participation to control the timing or progress of the conflict resolution process, which at all times shall remain in the discretion of the primary conflicting governmental entities.”

Developers at the Crawford Diamond project are joined by County staff. And the man sitting by himself is Taco Pope, Director of Planning and Economic Opportunity.

Paving, design and right-of-way acquisition is a familiar topic be it development of the commercial or residential variety. The Crawford Diamond facility, long touted as the dream location site for any type of manufacturing firm, was on the agenda for items relating to residential access to roads – especially in the event of an emergency and whether the company plans to use dangerous chemicals to mediate weeds, etc. in between the planned solar panels.

According to the brochure about the Crawford Diamond site, “Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), a subsidiary of Nextera Energy Inc. (NEE), has site control of the approximately 1,800 acre Crawford Diamond Industrial Park – a certified industrial park in Nassau County located 16-miles northwest of Jacksonville, Florida. The Crawford Diamond Park has been approved for up to 10.5 million square feet of industrial land use, which can include manufacturing, assembly, warehousing/distribution, and use as an intermodal inland port or logistics center.”

Developers of the site were in attendance at the Monday night meeting represented at the podium by Jeff West. The issue of using chemicals for weed control was easily dismissed when West simply stated that the company relies mainly on routine mowing and trimming around the panels which is quite effective and as such, mediates the need for chemical herbicides to a large degree. He did mention, however, that there have been times when FPL has relied on sheep to keep the grounds in order.

The conversation about residential access to roads, including Old Baldwin Road, revealed questions remain as to who owns which roads surrounding the location, what access is guaranteed and whether or not mitigation credits might be used. Said Commissioner Edwards, “it’s murky.” As a result, debate and deliberation on this aspect of the Crawford Diamond will be continued until March 11th.

In most cases regarding dirt roads in Nassau County, property owners clamor for County assistance to pave their roads but such is not the case on Dyal Road in Callahan. Apparently, monies from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) are available to help pave Dyal Road but state monies cannot be used unless all property owners approve. Therein lies the problem. Only seven land owners want the road paved.

The state of Dyal Road has long been an issue in Nassau County and so, with a motion made by Commissioner Aaron Bell with a second by Commissioner Edwards, the cost of condemnation procedures is going to be investigated. This would be an historic first as the County has never condemned property for the purpose of paving a road.

Amendments to existing zoning and building codes often go part and parcel with development. Two such changes were discussed and approved on February 11 – one to allow for the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). This term (ADUs) replaces what, in the past, many may have referred to as “in-law suites” or “guest quarters.” Proponents believe that by allowing such accessory dwellings, more units of the “affordable” variety will be available.

The second proposed ordinance would provide for adult day care centers in residential districts which in planning dynamics, is perhaps long overdue.

One of the last items to be discussed in detail was the Three Rivers Planned Unit Development. Originally approved in 2006, Three Rivers is located in west Nassau County – on the south side of SR 200 and west of the I-95 area in Yulee.

Several changes to the development plan have been approved over the years and just one last hearing remains, scheduled March 25th. Phase 1A is said to consist of 676 residential units, a community park, amenities, infrastructure and open space.

For more information about developments planning throughout the County, Vision 2032, put together by the Office of Planning and Economic Opportunity can be accessed at https://www.nassaucountyfl.com/DocumentCenter/View/15427/Vision-2032-Final-Report-Oct-2012—Last-Page-Contact-Info-Updated-42618?bidId=

Editor’s Note: Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Cindy received her BA in Political Science from Dickinson College. Upon graduation, Cindy began her career on Capitol Hill working as a legislative aide and director. She later became a part of the public relations and lobbying team of the American Iron and Steel Institute and served as director of the office of state legislative affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Cindy was involved in economic development with the state of Maryland, and served as executive director of Leadership Washington County. As a community volunteer, Cindy participates in numerous volunteer activities serving as a member of Sunrise Rotary, and as board member of Cummer Amelia Board of Directors.

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