Rayonier/Raydient Places + Properties files lawsuit against Nassau County

By Cindy Jackson
Reporter
November 14, 2018 10:55 a.m.

In a surprising development, the Fernandina Observer received news early this morning that Rayonier/Raydient Places + Properties has filed a lawsuit against Nassau County in the fourth judicial circuit.

The 172 page document (click here to review document) filed in the fourth judicial circuit court, is an attempt to “fully protect their property rights.”

The announcement included this statement:

“The lawsuit outlines the County’s improper actions . . . including the County’s recent enactment of a municipal service taxing unit (MSTU) ordinance over the East Nassau Community Planning Area (ENCPA), as well as the County’s misleading interpretation of the East Nassau Stewardship District Bill.”

Calls placed to county attorney and acting county manager Michael Mullin and to Pat Edwards, chairman of the board of county commissioners were not returned as of press time.

In the announcement sent by Alejandro Barbero, Director, Strategic Development and Communications for Rayonier, also stated that, “Despite the filing of the lawsuit, Raydient remains committed to the long-term success of the ENCPA and the optimization of economic development throughout Nassau County.”

  • STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT
    & COMMUNICATIONS• The dispute is about who pays for fixing Nassau County’s   current backlog of needs for parks and recreation facilities.
    • Nassau County’s own regulations require the County to construct and maintain its parks and recreation facilities.
    • For decades, the County has poorly planned and underfunded all public facilities, including recreation, while approving many thousands of new residential units.
    • For many years, Nassau County has collected impact fees that were too low to build the facilities needed due to growth.
    • Additionally, the County failed to collect its low impact fees for more than five years and that made the backlog even worse.
    • It is illegal for Nassau County to try to force new developments to pay for the County’s existing shortage of public facilities.

 

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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8 Responses to Rayonier/Raydient Places + Properties files lawsuit against Nassau County

  1. Wes White says:

    Having failed in its surreptitious efforts to secure a legislative bail-out in Tallahassee, Rayonier / Raydient has now turned to the courts. To the point, Rayonier / Raydient seeks to recast a political and legislative issue into a legal one. However, having chosen their political venue in the legislature’s halls of Tallahassee, and having implicitly acknowledged that their developmental due diligence was deficient and failed to address a costly line item, the litigation needs to be kicked out of court.

    What is particularly surprising is their willingness to amp up attacks on county commissioners and, by doing so, sending a bullying message to the politicians and people of Nassau County. But they are not sending the message they intended. If the bond market reads their Complaint, R / R will have exposed themselves as a pariah.

  2. Robert S. Warner, Jr. says:

    Yep. Well put, Wesley.

  3. Vince Cavallo says:

    I guess it all boils down to what the agreement actually says in its language. To me, it says Wild Light was required to furnish land absent any agreement to do the build out. What may have been said during negotiations is not in the written agreement. Shame on whomever approved this for the County.

    Speaking beyond the instant issue, it appears the over riding concern is the County has been deficient in the provision of “recreation facilities” for some time. Some of us have been complaining about the myopic rush to build out this entire county from the coast to Callahan. Myopic because impact charges were waived for many years!

    One symptom of this myopic planning we see each day is the SR 200 obstacle course roadway. Another symptom is the removal of trees and little planning for set backs from the roadways. Also, some plans make no sense: The Crawford development seems to have an impediment, the County does not own the land; recreational facilities are planned in areas where the local populace does not want them and parking for other facilities is being shoe horned in by redesigning a roadway (Sadler Rd) from four to two lanes over the objection of those who live and work in that area.

    One thing to look forward to given how the die has been cast, it is just going to get worse.

  4. Wes White says:

    Congratulations Vince! You’ve managed to pretty well distill down to a couple of paragraphs what it took 120 plus pages for the lawyers for Rayonier / Raydient to allege.

  5. Douglas Adkins says:

    Look here is the reality that Raydient faces, the fact is they negotiated to build “public” parks in HB 1075, they thought somewhere along the line they would be able to convince the elected commissioners whom they “bought” with campaign donations and support would see it their way and bend public policy and budget process in their direction. They never counted on people like Commissioner Pat Edwards and Danny Leeper “standing their ground” or defending the interest of the taxpayers over something as trivial as a “public park”. Michael Mullin is a true Patriot, he was promised something in terms of this “public parks” language and then Mike Bell and the new Rayonier team it would appear changed their minds and decided the burden should fall upon the taxpayer. The truth is the reason for the lawsuit is because they are unable to move forward with the bond traders in New York City due to the word “Public Parks” that is inside HB 1075 and the fact there is no public funding source. The MSTU will turn the project upside down and further erode bond trader’s confidence as they step away from this boondoogle in my personal opinion. Wait until they have to explain how they will handle an environmental spill of the “purple pipe” water when one of those large main lines ruptures on a cold morning or after a hurricane and you have hyper chlorinated waste water spewing in all directions killing sensitive environmental assets. I am sure they have some smart environmental grads from UF that are drafting up white papers to explain it all away, but what I know is it will have an effect, an effect none of of us are quite sure we fully understand yet. Duval is happy to get rid of the purple pipe water as they have an over supply of it and pushing it into Wildlight is like making it disappear into a swamp, at least for now in my opinion.

    • Vince Cavallo says:

      Doug, what is this “purple pipe” issue? Not heard that term before.

      On the issue of the language, my feeling is you are probably correct about what was said during negotiations about whom pays for for the facilities. The problem arises when one looks at the written agreement wording. It should have clearly specified the exact nature of what was meant by “public parks”. If it were an issue of a few dollars that is one thing, but this appears to be a multi million dollar issue which should have been completely spelled out in the agreements.

      Interestingly the company felt the need to go to the legislature to obtain a modification to the law to end run the county “just in case”. Seems to me one does not go through the ordeal of changing legislation if one believes they are in the right. Shut out in Tallahassee, they now go to the court to argue whether the definition in the written agreement is the exact meeting of the minds that formed the basis for the wording. Time will tell but i wish this had been forestalled by having unambiguous wording in the first place.

      • Douglas Adkins says:

        Vince – the “purple pipe” is the waste water that JEA will be sending up to Nassau ( Wildlight) via “purple pipe” that is hyper chlorinated. So while it is safe for human contact and is normally used for irrigation of lawns as reclaimed waste water there is a question mark of what happens when you rupture a large “purple pipe” water main and how that waste water impacts sensitive wet lands – you see wetlands have water that runs below the ground and the hyper chlorination is likely to have an unknown effect on all sorts of the biology, we are just not sure. Nonetheless, I am sure there will be a wait and see and then a “lessons learned” approach to the whole “purple pipe” business….the fact is Duval has to much and needs to get rid of it and Wildlight is a good place to off load it. I often wonder if you could amend the language of HB 1075 to strengthen the environmental safety measures, I am sure with Gov Ron DeSantis you will have someone who is committed to protecting the natural resources. I also know that Raydient were huge Putnam supporters so that will not bode well I am sure when they want to ask for some leeway on easing environmental controls. Then again they have their own representative on the St Johns River Water Management District so maybe they can just rewrite the rules, just my opinion but this whole environmental side of the project seems ill thought out.

  6. Douglas Adkins says:

    One quick question – since there is a local city election on December 11th – has anyone asked where the candidates stand on the Rayonier lawsuit? I think it’s a fair question and one that should be asked and answered before Fernandina Beach voters head to the polls. I personally think that Rayonier should drop the lawsuit, considering all that Nassau County taxpayers have given to this company ($5 million interest free money for the entrance road to Wildlight, paid by the School Board which is still not paid back), 12% tax credits or incremental financing agreement to fund mobility, Ligotech incentives, lets be honest taxpayers have been very kind to this single corporation up until now. With one of the two candidates being an employee of the Rayonier, it is important to know where they stand on this lawsuit against the county. If they support this predatory action against the taxpayers then if the same styled dispute arises in the city then we should expect the same position in the city as well. A simple question just seeking a simple answer – yes or no – do you support or oppose the lawsuit?

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