By Kevin Harris, 1-25-23
Tempers flared among some members of the public over the controversial, final meeting on the fate of the Breakers RV Park, at a meeting where other final development decisions were also made and a proclamation for beloved American Beach. An earlier meeting on December 20 was very heated.
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Breakers Travel Trailer Park on Sadler Rd
Item J – Public Hearing, Breakers
Consider for approval, the Final Development Plan for the Breakers Travel Trailer Park and Campground (Breakers RV Resort). Applicant is Intact Construction Management Group, LLC. Proposed development is at Southwest corner of Sadler and Ryan Roads.
Note of interest: To open this public hearing, Chairman Klynt Farmer asked of those in attendance that, “We avoid all personal attacks, abusive language, redundancy, and to make sure that no person is harassing or annoying or disturbing any other person in the room.”
The property was rezoned in February, 2022 from residential single family to commercial general, to facilitate travel trailer parks and campgrounds. In July, 2022, however, travel trailer parks and campgrounds were removed from use under commercial zoning via Ordinance 2022-020, though that legislation happened after the initial application for the Breakers RV Resort. As such, planning staff considers the application vested for development as a trailer park and campground. (Pg. 2, FD22-006 Planning Department Staff Report, Dec. 20, 2022).
The Final Development Plan meets regulatory requirements of the Site Development Review and staff recommends approval. The Planning and Zoning Board, however, recommended to deny the plan, unanimously.
Various members and experts with the applicant’s team spoke in support of the various concerns about the projects, ranging from traffic issues to sewer concerns.
Note: Citizens Journal reporter took a representative sampling of a portion of the 25 public speakers who presented on this issue, and accurately included the most relevant portions of their speech.
Lynne Penone: She urged the commissioners to weigh the risks of being sued by the applicant for denying their plan, verses being sued by an injured pedestrian or driver, or by a conservation group or state regulator for approving of the plan to allow the trailer park to be built. “Voting no on this proposal is the least risky and most responsible action on the part of the commission.”
Michael Shirk: He insists that Ryan Road leading to the proposed trailer park is a residential street, and not a commercial zone, which the commission reclassified it to be. He said the large RVs can not safely travel through the residential streets.
Sandy Kerry: Ms. Kerry, like several other speakers before her, had many relevant concerns about the project, yet County Attorney Denise May (photo) shut them all down, citing that only comments pertaining to items 1-7 of “Code 2809” would be acceptable or deemed “relevant.” Code 2809 is a section of the County’s Land Development Code. Items 1-7 discuss things like traffic flow, frontage distance and other trailer park requirements.
Members of the crowd, meanwhile, both in the chambers and out in the hallway waiting to speak, were heard speaking out with discontent. The tension was growing. A commissioner said, “we’d appreciate no outbursts in the audience.”
Chairman Farmer then said to Ms. Kerry, “If you don’t have anything relevant, we’ll move on to the next speaker.”
The next speaker came up and politely asked if she could talk about the septic system on site, and she was told she could not. She then asked if she could discuss the storage tanks on the RVs, and how they might affect the local environment. Again, she was told she could not discuss that either and was sent away.
(By now, as an offsite reporter, this was not sitting right with me at all. WHY was it a requirement that any and all comments be strictly limited to “Code 2809?” Who came up with that arbitrary rule?)
A couple of other speakers went up and tried to fit their comments in to compliance, and Attorney May just quietly glared at them as they spoke, but allowed them some time. Nearly every speaker opposed the project, and one even told how the property owner recently spoke aggressively and offensively to a group of local women. Then came Ruth.
Ruth Ellen Mullberg: “We are people, we are not a bunch of articles in the code. You are our representatives,” she said in response to the shocking treatment by the Board. Regarding the project… “This is absolutely not the right place for this kind of development, and I also think they’re trying to exploit the fact that this particular piece of property happens to be on the cusp of the city verses the county. This has always been an issue,” she said.
Gene Kerry: “I am almost speechless here, without words, only because we can’t talk about half the things we had planned,” she started with. She continued by saying that she had a professional team of experts go over the current site plan and evaluated it against local, county, state and federal laws. And she said there has been “erroneous reporting” going on as well in some instances.
“For example, the map that was put up earlier, that showed Ryan Road and showed the different businesses there. Across the street is Barbara Dukes’ home. 2204 Ryan Road. On that map it showed that it was commercial. It is not. She’s sitting out there and she’s saying, ‘THAT’S MY HOUSE!’”
(Applicant’s Attorney) “Once you get past the commercially-zoned property, it’s (Ryan Rd.) a residential road,” he said, regarding the speakers’ concerns. He added, however, that a commercial road has businesses on both sides of the road, which he said that Ryan Road does, and that this would not be an issue if we were talking about a CVS being put in, or even a hotel.
Commissioner Alyson McCullough: Com. McCullough gave a rambling testimony on how she personally had driven and parker her large camper and toy hauler on small roads and into the tightest spaces without incidents, and how she follows SIRI directions and roads signs which always keep her out of getting into hazardous situations with her large vehicles. Some members of the public were displeased with her comments and spoke out while she was presenting, and a commissioner, and the County Attorney, quickly quoted them, threatening them with expulsion from the meeting if they continued.
Commissioner John Martin: “I understand that Ryan Road is considered a commercial district road, but my common sense tells me it’s really a residential road. It egresses into a residential road – the entrance into Pirates Bay.” He also said he believes there will be problems with RVs making the turn to get in and out of the RV park, and that the vacationers will have an impact on the residents of the neighborhood. “For all those reasons, I’m in opposition.”
Commissioner Martin: No
Commissioner Huppman: Yes
Commissioner McCullough: Yes
Commissioner Grey: Yes
Commissioner Farmer: No
Motion passes, 3-2.
Final Note: When the vote was finished, one audience member yelled out, “You Whore!” Commotion ensued briefly as the commissioners tried to quiet the room.
American Beach Day Proclaimed
The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners passed a Resolution proclaiming January 31, 2023 as “American Beach Day,” to be celebrated on January 31, annually.
American Beach, an African American enclave on Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida, was founded on January 31, 1935 by the Pension Bureau of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company for the purpose of developing an oceanfront resort for its employees and shareholders. 2023 marks the 88th anniversary of the founding of American Beach. During the period of racial segregation in America, American Beach became known to hundreds of thousands as the Negro Playground, and was a home in paradise to many.
Since 1982, property owners assumed leadership for the community and began a neighborhood association. Through the efforts of this Association, a state historic survey of homes and structures on American Beach was completed. Since January 28, 2002 it has been listed as the American Beach Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places.
The American Beach Property Owners’ Association, Inc., as custodian of this natural landmark, takes pride and responsibility in the care, preservation and well being of the American Beach community.
The American Beach Property Owners’ Association announced that they will be celebrating American Beach Day this coming Saturday, January 28, at the Community Center at 10:00 am.
Buckhead II Planned Unit Development
ITEM H – Public Hearing
Approval of Final Development Plan for Buckhead II Planned Unit Development (PUD), Phase 3 & 4, for up to 207 single family residential units, associated open space, and recreational amenities in total. Applicant, Nassau Land & Timber, Inc.
-Buckhead established 47 units in January, 1998; later amendments included Buckhead II, Phases 1 & 2, which established an additional 72 units; and now, if approved, Phases 3 & 4, will add another 75 units.
-As of December, 2022, the County reported 114 occupants, representing 55% of the 207 entitled units for the development. The current 75 requested units will bring the project up to 189 units, or 91% of their entitlement. The entitlement agreement for the development includes 207 units on 309 acres.
-PUD requires 2.6 recreation acres for this size of development, and the applicant, Nassau Land & Timber, Inc., is proposing more than 6 acres for recreation. The Final Development Plan meets all site development requirements, and County Staff recommended to approve of the final phases in the December, 2022 Planning and Zoning Board meeting.
Applicant Presentation (Michael Stokes, for the Applicant)
Started by addressing some concerns brought up in previous Planning and Zoning meeting, including that a school bus stop has been added to the final phase of the development. “I just remind you that we’re really not here to approve of PUD (Planned Unit Development). We’re here to approve the last two engineering design plans for a PUD that’s already half built,” Stokes told the Commission.
Note: Citizens Journal reporter took a representative sampling of a portion of the public speakers and accurately included the most relevant portions of their speech.
Catherine Clark: Concerned that there is only one entrance in and out of the facility. “This is only going to serve to create more issues of traffic and speeding, with the heightened potential for accidents and fatalities,” she said. She also opined that the large construction vehicles and equipment could damage local roads and personal vehicles, costing residents higher taxes and repair costs. Aside from some other concerns, however, Ms. Clark said he biggest concern is that the Commission is considering approving a project that was originally planned in 1998 – 25 years ago.
“It is highly inappropriate to move forward on a 25-year-old proposal without making any sort of improvements to the neighborhood, or conducting any additional research, communicating with the residents in that area to see what exactly can be done in order to improve that.”
Shawn Houser: Also concerned about the single entrance to the development, but mentioned that with the additional housing, crime is sure to increase as well. “Another thing is the fire suppression systems that are not there. If one home catches fire, the whole neighborhood’s going up,” he said.
Kimberly Baldwin (Flagg): Said she moved into the area to escape the hustle and bustle of wherever she moved from. “I found this quiet, quaint, rural neighborhood called Buckhead. And I instantly fell in love with that location,” she said. She also said that she spent extra money to live in a spot by the pond, with the woods “on the opposite side,” and was told that those woods would be protected from being built on, “so I wouldn’t have to look at houses across from me everyday.” She closed by also saying that another entrance/exit must be added.
Wanda Frankin: “We have been lied to, I don’t know how many times. It was going to be a small community. That’s why we all moved out there,” she said. She closed by saying, “If it passes tonight, you will be hearing from us again.”
Max Franklin Jr.: “I can’t stop development, but when you tell me you’ve done these wildlife studies, somebody is lying,” he said. He went on to describe how he personally buried 10 turtles that were killed (by cars?), and how deer used to frequent his back yard, but now he can’t even back out of his driveway due to speeding traffic.
“I’ve been lied to big time out there. And my house is paid for. So what am I going to do? At almost 70, start over again? I don’t want to start over. I like my house,” he said.
(Michael Stokes) “I will remind you, this has not been a secret that we’ve hidden. This PUD was approved in 2002. It’s public record ever since then. We’ve not been hiding anything here,” he said.
(Henry Vorpe, AVA Engineers) He quickly explained some of the technical issues and solutions that the applicant was undertaking. For example, a fire hydrant was being added to the facility, with water provided by the local pond, since there is no grid utility water available. He also said that, regarding peoples’ concerns about a single entry into the development, there is no way to add another one. “The property up front is only 150-foot wide. You can’t have two entries… to the East is Duvall County, and to the West is another large-lot subdivision. So there’s no way to connect another entry.”
He continued: “We did do a wildlife study in accordance with the County standards. There’s nothing there that isn’t being addressed through both the water management district and the County.” He also said that he does not believe there is any correlation between “a few more homes” and an increase in crime.
Motion passed unanimously.
Amelia National Planned Unit Development
Item I – Public Hearing
Consider for approval the Final Development Plan for Phase 1C, Segment 4 and Phase 1D, Segments 1 and 2of the Amelia National Planned Unit Development (PUD); 148 single-family residential units and associated infrastructure on the north and east sides of Amelia Concourse, west of CR107 – Old Nassauville Road. Applicant is Amelia National Enterprise, LLC.
The PUD was first approved in 2000 to include 460 single-family units; 20,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial use; and 18-hole golf course and associated amenities. The Plan was amended in 2002 and 2003 to expand its boundaries, increasing residential units to 749, and to allow for 20 timeshare multifamily units. It was amended yet again in 2014 to allow a tennis facility and pro shop.
According to staff, the Final Development Plan meets all local regulatory requirements, and recommends approval of the FDP. The Planning and Zoning Board already approved the FDP unanimously in December.
The applicant waived the right to present, and there were no public speakers present.
Motion passed unanimously.
The next County Commissioners Meeting will be on Monday, February 13, 2023, at 6:00 pm, and will be held at the James S. Page Governmental Complex, 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee, FL 32097.
The link to view the meeting online: https://nassaufl.granicus.com/player/clip/1552?view_id=2&redirect=true&h=b1404aa571d63d1130540c1eb564e730
Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State
Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists, having worked for the LA Times and
Newhall Signal. He is now also a musician and videographer, and splits his time living
outside of Salt Lake City, Ventura County, CA, and South Florida.