By Susan Hardee Steger
February 7, 2018 1:10 p.m.
Commissioners at the Fernandina Beach City Commission meeting had their plates full with first readings on Future Land Use Maps (FLUM), Zoning, and a FLUM Moritorium. The major item up for consideration was a request by owners of properties located at 116, 118, and 120 North 2nd Street to change the City’s FLUM and Zoning Maps. The properties are currently General Commercial. Owners are requesting a Central Business District (C-3) designation.
FLUM Amendment 1st Reading
General Commercial to Central Business District
Kelly Gibson, planning and conservation director, said the proposed changes were consistent with the comprehensive plan. The current properties contain several non-conforming uses as it relates to residential use. These properties do not permit any residential density so they have continued to act in a non-conforming status.
Attorney Theresa Prince representing the property owners said in the event the changes are approved, town-homes are proposed for the site. The town-houses will have office space in the front of the building, garage apartments in the back, and residential in the middle. Parking will be provided on site. The height restriction on the properties is 35 feet. According to Prince and several individuals who addressed the commission, residential development is needed in the downtown area.
Commissions voted 4 – 1 to approve the change on the first reading. Commissioner Ross voted no on the first reading citing his main objection was the City’s C-3 Zoning and land development requirements. Ross believes the C-3 zoning “seems to be turning our central business district into a sea of residential town-houses.”
Zoning Map Amendment
Following the vote to approve the FLUM amendment, the commission held a quasi-judicial hearing to consider a proposed change to the City’s Zoning Map from General Commercial to Central Business District (C-3) for the North Second Street properties. Several speakers voiced support of the zoning change, with one individual who requested the need for a development agreement between the city and the developer prior to approval. Prince said that the properties are located in the CRA, therefore there will be more review requirements than a normal lot outside of the CRA or Historic District. A vote on the Zoning Map change will not take place until the second reading scheduled for the March 5th city commission meeting.
1st Reading FLUM Temporary Moratorium
In January, the Planning and Advisory Board (PAB) recommended a moratorium on the processing of applications that require Comprehensive Plan FLUM changes due to inconsistencies and errors in the FLUM. The PAB was uncomfortable approving changes to the FLUM and requested city staff investigate and correct inconsistencies and errors in land use and zoning and other errors, some of which have occurred during previous annexations.
The moratorium is planned for one year. Once completed, a presentation will be held to share the information and an effort made to alert private property owners impacted by proposed changes and explain the rationale behind making the change. Kelly Gibson, director of planning and conservation, anticipates the completion in October.
Phil Griffin, local real estate broker, objected to the moratorium as a terrible idea. There is no crisis, and no reason to shut this down. In the event the moratorium was approved, Griffin suggested the commission at least shorten the time from one year to 60 or 90 days.
The moratorium will not impact current applications in process, City staff applications to correct FLUM, changes to recreation, public institutional, and conservation land, and requests during an annexation process. The process and issuing of building permits and all other types of applications are not impacted.
Approval of the one year FLUM moratorium on first reading was unanimous.