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Sunday, May 28, 2023
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Fernandina Tringali Property Development Struggle

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By Sandy Kerry, 5-16-23

The Tringali property decision is coming before the Fernandina City Commission once again this evening at 6pm. Let’s hope there are no last minute shenanigans like last time when it was pulled off the agenda at the last minute.

Let’s hope there are no new signatures required unexpectedly on the application which has now  been in City planning staff’s hands for over 8 months. The preliminary plat application and site plan for changes to the downtown Tringali property was first submitted to the Planning Department in August 2022 by Ron Flick and Compass Group. The City Attorney  removed the item from that night’s agenda moments before the meeting began.

Is this standard operating procedure or was she showing preferential treatment to the developer?

The application requested tearing down 4 single-family homes and replacing with 12 townhomes. This is in violation of LDC 1.03.05.

Yet conspicuously missing was: any reference to LDC 1.03.05 which says that when a single family home, duplex, or auxiliary building has existed on one or more platted lots it becomes the “lot of record,” and no permit will be issued for more than one residential dwelling on the site. Even when there is a demolition, whether voluntary or involuntary, the “lot of record” does not change.

This means in any residential area in the City that a developer cannot purchase an older home on a large lot, tear it down, and build back multiple dwellings to maximize their profit.

This is an important law designed to keep intensity of growth in the City to a low roar. Why would city staff ignore this part of city code?

No plan has been submitted, the look is not known, the height is not known, and there have been many inconsistencies noted through the Planning Process.  What is known is that placing 12 townhomes bordering the historic district is not allowed and violates our land development code.

Why are City Planner Gibson and City Attorney Bach so intent on bringing this application directly to the City Commission, rather than allowing this application to go the required procedure to the the BOA? This is exactly what the PAB Board and Chair Robas decided, even when they tried sending it back to them a second time. They were clear and said their decision stands.

Instead of following their recommendation, the City Planning Director forwarded the case to the City Commission on February 7, 2023.

The five-member volunteer body known as the PAB (Planning Advisory Board) functions as the City Commission’s primary resource for researching, reviewing and recommending action on land use-related activities did yet they did not receive a full information packet when originally considering the Tringali redevelopment request. Why? 

The PAB considered the preliminary plat application 12/14/22 and denied the replat request and instead recommended that the application be forwarded to the Board of Adjustments (BOA) for a variance request as required by law 1.03.05.

The City Attorney is quoted in an article she wrote that “Up to the 6:00 p.m. start time for the city commission regular meeting on February 7, 2023, I waited with Mr. Ron Flick for the presumed last notarized statement authorizing Mr. Flick and Compass Group to represent the property owners in front of the city commission for presentation of evidence and testimony under oath in the quasi-judicial hearing.”

The City Attorney has also stated that the City has ignored its own laws for over 16 years during the subdivision of property. Why?

Through various public records requests, citizens have found that the City has not in fact been doing that exclusively. Other similarly situated property owners have been to the Board of Adjustment for variance requests. Why not now?

If the commission were to approve this proposal without sending it to the Board of Adjustments as required by law, it would establish an extremely bad precedent.

Would such a precedent require the city to approve all future subdivision requests of residential properties similarly, to allow townhome developments to be built in all neighborhoods?

When a wall of townhomes is permitted to be to be built interspersed amongst older, existing properties this will change not only the character and ambience of the historic district to the south of Centre Street but it could potentially change the character of neighborhoods throughout the City.

Let’s hope our City commission has the wisdom and courage to take a stand, follow our laws and code, and just do the right thing tonight. Be there at 6pm tonight and voice your concerns!

Sandy Kerry is local resident and civic activist.

The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.

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