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HomeNassau CountyFernandina BeachPlease Help: Preserving the Character of Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach

Please Help: Preserving the Character of Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach

Is City Attorney misinterpreting the law?

Club 14 Fitness


By Taina Christner, 1-28-23

Tringali Property Townhome Opinion- Preserve the Integrity of our Neighborhoods

A plan will be sent to the City of Fernandina Beach City Commission on February 7, 2023 titled “3rd and 4th Beech Townhomes”.  This plan includes demolition and removal of four homes that were built in 1900, 1940, 1945 and 1953.  All of these homes were deemed historically significant in the 1980s survey of historic homes in Fernandina Beach.  The idea is to replace them with twelve townhomes.


124 South 3rd Street, 119 South 4th Street, 123 South 4th Street, 125 South 4th Street
PIN: 00-00-31-1800-0012-005, 00-00-31-1800-0012-0100, 00-00-31-1800-0012-
0150, 00-00-31-1800-0012-0190, 00-00-31-1800-0012-0210
Mixed-Use (MU) and Medium Density Residential (MDR) Land Use +


In addition to demolishing these homes, my understanding is the plan includes raising much of the property approximately 2.5-3.5 feet in concrete/pipes/utilities.  A large concern that is that this raised block will be directly across from beautiful Historic District homes on 4th street, as well as catty-corner to several more beautiful historic district homes on Beech Street.  There is no area in Fernandina Beach where a large, raised block with townhomes is directly across the street from historic district homes so this will set a precedent.  Neighbors are concerned about the increased flooding potential to the historic district homes on 4th, 5th and Beech Streets from displaced water during floods. 

This project directly violates section 1.03.05 of the Fernandina Beach Land Development Code, which states:

Section 1.03.05 In order to maintain open space, visual corridors, neighborhood character, property values and visual attractiveness of residential areas, wherever there may exist a single-family detached residential unit or, a duplex structure or any auxiliary building or structure, including but not limited to, swimming pools, or any other improvement which was heretofore constructed on property containing one or more platted lots or portions thereof (excluding walls or fences), such lots thereafter constitute one building site and must be considered the “lot of record”, and no permit will be issued for the construction of more than one residential dwelling unit on the site. All construction on the building site must comply with all existing zoning and density requirements.

Regardless, our Planning and Conservation Department is recommending this project, and our City Attorney says she ‘interprets’ section 1.03.05 differently than it reads in plain English. However the Planning Advisory Board rejected it unanimously on December 14 (Agenda).

Concern is that this will be the first domino to fall and that our small endangered historic district will become surrounded by raised concrete developments.  Because we are only 4 blocks from the river, this will drastically increase flooding probabilities for our historic properties.  From what I have been told, the City of Fernandina Beach Planning and Conservation Department already approved development next door to a historic home that caused significant flooding to the lot of the historic home, so neighbors have little confidence when the Department of Planning and Conservation assures us our homes will be safe.  It makes no common sense.

From what I have read, the Director of the Fernandina Beach Planning and Conservation Department seems to feel our city needs more high-density development because a 2020 University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research study determined that Fernandina Beach would see an increase of approximately 2300 residents between 2020 and 2045.  Because of this, the Director of Planning and Conservation feels we need approximately 980 new residences to accommodate these potential new citizens.  Because there are only 580 vacant sites in the city, and some of those are wetlands, they feel we need to increase density to accommodate these future potential residents. Rather than changing the law, they are trying to just ignore it.

Developers are probably looking at this project as it will set precedent for other older homes in the downtown area to be torn down and replaced with townhomes.

If you think this project does not affect you, be aware that it does, as our city administrators are pushing for more variances to prepare for future growth from a textbook study. Maybe your neighborhood will be next.

A City Commission Meeting will address this topic and potentially even approve this project on February 7, 2023, starting at 5:00pm at City Hall.  Please write the city commissioners to let them know of your feelings towards this project and attend the meeting.  

Let’s make our City Commission know that the vast majority of citizens would like to preserve the uniqueness and quality of life in Fernandina Beach, and we do not want to let a few unelected City Administrators, with a penchant for case studies, change our beautiful community.

Ross, Ronald “Chip”City CommissionerEmail (410) 394-0220
Bean, BradleyMayorEmail (904) 415-5181
Sturges, DavidVice-MayorEmail (904)753-2445
Ayscue, DarronCity CommissionerEmail (904) 780-4480
Antun, JamesCity CommissionerJames Antun (516) 547-5309

Taina Christner is a downtown Fernandina Beach resident, working in the financial industry.

The views and opinions 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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