City of Fernandina Beach Commission seeks acquisition of vacant land

By Susan Hardee Steger
February 13, 2019 10:05 a.m.

Marc Hudson from the North Florida Land Trust updated commissioners on negotiations to acquire vacant land totaling 7.5 acres located East of North 11th Street in Fernandina Beach. According to Hudson, “We are very close, and the conversations with the sellers have been very favorable.”

The North Florida Land Trust and the City of Fernandina Beach have developed a Memorandum of Understanding to“Co-Acquire” the properties which consist of two adjacent parcels. The first parcel is owned by the Episcopal Diocese (5.92 acres) and the other by Garrett Floyd (1.58 acres). The property appraisals are complete (confidential at this time), a minor title issue is being resolved, and Hudson expects an offer to the property owners within the next week or two. The offer to purchase requires city commission approval.

Conservation Planning

The NFLA works with communities to develop conservation plans. At the direction of Commissioner Chip Ross, Hudson presented the process used by the NFLA to identify which properties are significant to conservation. Vacant lands are categorized as “opportunity areas” for parks and green space. To determine where to invest, consideration is given to answers to the following questions:

  • Where do we want to avoid development in the future?
  • What things have specific community and natural value?
  • Where are Native habitat areas (forests, dunes, park lands) where can we take advantage of and add to existing native habitat areas?
  • How can we add to existing public infrastructure (existing parks & trails)?
  • Can everyone in the city easily walk to a park? (Most people are willing to walk a ¼ of a mile to a park. Most areas in Fernandina Beach are serviced by a park, but there are a few areas in Fernandina where service to parks can be improved.)

A weighted value and ranking to the analysis is given to determine the best “opportunity areas” for land conservation (see maps below.) An area wide appraisal is produced and a strategy for financing is analyzed. A common sense measurement is made to determine how much money is required, and what is the benefit.

The NFLT then begins the final stage of the analysis process by reviewing the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the Parks & Recreation Master Plan, and receiving input from city staff and the community.

NFLT offers conservation planning to the city at no cost. In order for the city to move forward on a conservation plan, a recommendation is needed by the commission to direct staff to work with NFLA.  A schedule will then be developed and  presented to the commission for approval.

About the NFLT

The North Florida Land Trust is a 501© 3 charitable non-profit whose mission is to protect natural areas, historic areas (lands with historic significance and purpose), and working lands (farm lands, forest lands, ranch lands). NFLT has a staff of 11 and works in a 12 county area of North Florida and handles various real estate acquisitions, financing, and capital campaign efforts.

A portion of the NFLTA presentation before the Fernandina Beach City Commission showing Underserved Greenspace Areas.
“Areas of Ranked High Priority” for potential conservation properties with orange designating the highest priority.
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