Happy 4th of July

….Well, for most of us. ¬†Before I explain, I want to wish everyone a happy 4th of July. ¬†We live in the best country in the world and I feel honored to live here, enjoying freedom, standard of living and privileges much of the world cannot imagine.

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Earlier today, I had a conversation, I think, ¬†with a friend in a local coffee shop. ¬†While civil on my side, they made every effort to insult each and every person in local government, state government, the POTUS and everyone in between. ¬†I didn’t agree, so the hostility neared “saliva spitting” levels, vocal enough to make the next table leave the shop. ¬†Voters don’t have it right, those elected to represent us don’t have it right and everyone not agreeing with this person (coffee shop acquaintance) must be criminal…or patently stupid. ¬†Those were his words or the equivalent, not mine.

After 15 minutes of trying to exert civility, I finally left, but the holiday seemed such an odd day for this conversation! ¬†I hope we all remember “WE” live in the same country and “WE” have a government elected to represent all of us. ¬†Whether or not we agree politically, recognizing our system and respecting the country is something I feel should be universally accepted/expected. ¬†Yes, the media is becoming polarized and, depending on your political view, I could probably tell you which major station you choose to hear. ¬†I say “HEAR” because I’m as guilty as the next person and simply turn off the things I begin to see as biased. ¬†The key is in recognizing both sides of biased reporting. ¬†We should all make a conscious effort to just be “Americans”. ¬†I hope we all begin to recognize the importance of seeing our country as “OUR” country with an inclusive “OUR”.

Happy 4th of July, 2018. ¬†May you all enjoy today and celebrate the freedoms we have in the greatest country in the world. ¬†I’m thinking about The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and it’s wording….”I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” ¬†We all, I think, still live in the same country and a quiet talk over coffee shouldn’t turn into something impossible for people with different political views.

 

A Few Favorite Pictures and History

The Honey Badgers are playing for Sounds on Center this week and I thought about some of the concerts we’ve enjoyed over past years. ¬†The picture below is from 7 years ago and pretty common for our street concert series. ¬†These are family-friendly events and a lot of fun for everyone before an evening out or after a day spent downtown.

No, the Palace Saloon Coca Cola does not represent the current sign code or size, but it is historic.

I took this shot on the way to the car one night.  Palm trees and skies s clear, full moon illumination at night can be as bright as a streetlight. 

Deer and coyote are on the island. ¬†I’ve noticed far more in the last few years, but, for some reason, not so many rabbits. ¬†¬†

Shrimping is still around, but the dock space is shrinking.  The newest change to the island is a shift toward becoming a dining, shopping and recreation destination and away from what you might traditionally think of as a working waterfront.  The island is the home of the shrimping industry, but finding a way to preserve history and embrace change is an ongoing challenge.

PJD’s is something local and unique. ¬†If you’re downtown, this is a wonderful stop for an amazing selection of craft beer. ¬†Hours are short and they do close for weather.

The development downtown is always a mix of the old and new. ¬†I enjoy the coffee at Hola Cafe on North 2nd….attached to the rear of the Palace Saloon building. ¬†The best businesses bring something truly unique to Fernandina. ¬†Pi for Pizza, Hola Cuban Cafe for Coffee, PJD’s for Craft Beer….Hand Crafted Chocolate at Fantastic Fudge and Timiti’s for a Poke Bowl. ¬†¬†

Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet) Reminder

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I’m just pointing out the blooming brugmansia plants, common in the area, ¬†and potential for unwanted exposure. ¬†While I don’t think ingestion is likely, assuming most people don’t eat random shrubbery, would someone with high blood pressure or a damaged heart be at risk if pruning or cutting flowers?

All parts of Brugmansia are potentially poisonous, with the seeds and leaves being especially dangerous. Effects of ingestion can include paralysis of smooth muscles, confusion, tachycardia, dry mouth, diarrhea, migraine headaches, visual and auditory hallucinations, mydriasis, rapid onset cycloplegia, and death. Source: www.wikipedia.org 6/19/18

 

Coyotes Becoming Common on Amelia Island

I hope you’ll excuse the very poor quality of the image, but last week a fairly large coyote ran through ¬†our back yard. ¬†Talking with a neighbor, this coyote or another one spent some time attempting to encourage their new puppy to leave the yard, until the owner noticed. ¬†Given the reputation coyotes have for eating pets or small animals, I’ve started keeping our dog on a leash when we take her outside after dark.

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At the size of a small German Shepard, this was more than enough to be a threat to our dog, so I began looking for information on just how dangerous these might be to pets.  It turns out they do have a reputation for eating cats and small dogs.  Even larger dogs are sometimes taunted into following the much faster and more agile coyotes.

Whether you’re looking for tips on avoiding a problem with feral cat feedings or some of the links below have very different thoughts on how to deal with coyotes. ¬†Are they actually a problem? ¬†While I’m not pleased by the need to take more care with my¬†IMG_0919.jpg“Thanksgiving Turkey”-sized golden-doodle, one study shows coyotes actually protect wildlife by changing where feral cats live. ¬†If true, the change should push feral cats away from areas with wild birds and eliminate some of the issues with disease, since the study also shows the location change appears to naturally reduce health issues in feral animals.

Now a study at Ohio State University shows that coyotes keep down the cat population in the more natural urban/suburban areas in two ways ‚ÄĒ meals of cat and cat education. The latter is the most significant. The cats learn that life closer to houses is safer. Cats migrate out of the parks and live in areas where the researchers found the cats to be both fatter and less diseased. In effect, the urban area becomes divided into coyote zones and cat zones. ¬† The Wildlife News¬†6/15/18

 

Preserving Fernandina’s Historic Buildings

One helpful conversation later, I understand the possibilities for preservation a little more. ¬†Areas along Fernandina’s waterfront are filled with historic buildings pre-dating FEMA elevation requirements or built when the flood zones required less. ¬†A prime example of a building “potentially” preserved by “dry proofing” techniques, is the Standard Marine property. ¬†Instead of an extremely difficult change to finished floor elevation, this may offer a solution.

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Ideal Candidate?

Retrofit floodproofing measures for historic buildings need not be comprehensive to provide at least some degree of protection. The techniques listed below may have minimal impact on the historically significant features of the structure (FEMA 2008b):

  • Elevating electrical and mechanical systems and utilities
  • Relocating contents
  • Creating positive drainage, where the grade allows water to drain away from the building
  • Using flood damage-resistant materials
  • Filling in basements or wet floodproofing basements
  • Installing small floodwalls to protect openings such as window wells

Source: FEMA Floodproofing Non-Residential Buildings FEMA P-936 / July 2013 

I’m pleased to see possibilities for both preservation and, I would hope, reduction of insurance rates. ¬†My next call is to my insurance agent to discuss potential benefits for historic non-residential property retrofitted with any of these FEMA flood proofing. Consider the picture below and how many older properties might potentially benefit.

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Source: Nassau County Property Appraiser GIS

Amazing Oceanfront Views….Some Costs to Consider and Importance of Public Access

Are you considering buying or building a home on the ocean and have you considered, beyond the view and restrictions on construction, the importance of locating theScreen Shot 2018 04 30 at 10 09 32 AM‚ÄúCoastal Construction Control Line‚ÄĚ before moving forward. ¬†A
number of areas with frontage are relatively high, while some areas might be located entirely seaward of the CCCL.   Knowing flood zones, including recent changes to these, is important, but the graph below, taken from Fema’s Coastal Construction Manual, is enlightening.  I was aware of the increased risk, but moving seaward from this line adds insurance, maintenance and, well to put it simply, a cost.

If you are willing to pay the cost to build, the views can be amazing, but locating the lines and considering the cost comes first.


Other costs might be the maintenance of a home near salt water, damage from occasional winds or sustained rain in a “Northeaster” or tropical event. and the privacy sacrificed when you live, essentially, on an area open to the public.

All considered, oceanfront living is amazing.  Watching the changes in weather, people and being able to swim, surf, fish or enjoy a beach steps from your back door is a great experience.   My family owned property on North Fletcher and in the 2400 block of South Fletcher for most of my childhood.  The experience of living on the ocean is worth every penny.

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In the last few months, we’ve all been watching a change to law, potentially having an impact on public beach access. ¬†While we have been assured by our representatives, the potential for unintended consequences is driving a grass-roots effort to preserve any endangered beach access. ¬†You can read more or become involved to protect any potential loss of access. ¬†Senator Aaron Bean had the following thoughts and the concerns obviously have his attention.

Regarding HB631:

“The claim that this new law will turn public beaches into private beaches and therefore restricting the public‚Äôs access to beaches is simply not true.

The Tampa Bay Times, in evaluating this same claim, rated the claim that this new law would make all beaches private and restrict access as MOSTLY FALSE, stating “The law Scot

t signed would not result in turning more public beaches into private ones.‚ÄĚ Read more here: http://www.politifact.com/‚Ķ/did-gov-rick-scott-sign-bill-c‚Ķ/

Further, FloridaPolitics.com also looked into this claim, citing a legal expert saying it is not as dire as some are stating. Read more here: http://floridapolitics.com/…/260737-controversial-beach-acc…

To explain, access to the beach is a constitutionally protected right that all Floridians enjoy and not a grain of sand will be treated differently.

This law is meant to stop government from being able to take someone’s beach front property without following due process.

I am a beach boy. I grew up on the beach and was a proud local lifeguard growing up. I would never support any legislation that prohibits our access to our white sandy beaches. And again, I don’t believe that this new law does that.

I will promise you this – if there are any unintended consequences to this bill, that I will personally lead the charge to fix them in the coming session. But I would encourage my fellow beach lovers to read up on the law, what it does and does not do – as I would never support a bill that limits access to our wonderful beaches.” ¬† Sen. Aaron Bean

So where does this leave us? When growing up on the island, my memories of the beach were driving from one end of the island to the other. ¬†Surfing or fishing on the island meant we had over 13 miles of beach to find privacy or a group of friends… ¬†The grass roots efforts lead to an increased awareness, with groups like Citizens for the Preservation of Public Beaches signing petitions.

 

I started with considerations when buying or living on the ocean, but it is logical to understand the history of beach use here and understand the kinds of uses.  Beach driving ended on the majority of the island years ago.  A few areas are protected, as they should be, and all beaches are public, limited by the restrictions in place to protect native vegetation, wildlife and natural dunes.

Under Contract and Dramatic Transformation Coming

Change is coming, if you haven’t noticed. ¬†The downtown area is becoming the hottest place to live, work and play, while properties are redeveloped to make more sense in the changed local economy. ¬†Prime locations are everywhere, if you only take the time to look. ¬† The Boat House is “under contract”, the old Pecan Roll closed recently and the old Picker’s Market will change in a very interesting way, I’m told. ¬†We’re on the verge of seeing a very useful CRA and some needed redevelopment or repurposing of property in Fernandina. ¬†The renovation underway at the Old School House is another example. ¬†I can name a number of positive changes coming.

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With limited views and unique locations, we all drive by older buildings without considering the potential benefits.  Change in use means added vitality for downtown, tax revenue and a side benefit from the complimentary effect of nearby diverse, thriving businesses.

If you think about the potential changes and ways the downtown area evolved over the last century, you’ll understand Fernandina a little more. ¬†Last month, the old First Baptist Church Sunday School building went under contract and is slated for redevelopment into high end loft space. ¬†The demand is high for living space near commercial uses, so repurposing older buildings, a trend in most waterfront commercial districts, is becoming the biggest trend here. ¬†The old Fernandina Lumber site is moving forward with foundations poured for townhomes. ¬†Considering the website, the price per foot ranges are hitting new highs for an area approaching oceanfront demand. ¬† An improved library, eclectic food and shopping and remaining available sites, just waiting for the right investor/developer, means Historic Fernandina is seeing a rebirth, with high interest in preservation and seeking a new logic for every area.

As a local, I still feel the nostalgia.  Shrimp Festival began in the same year I was born, so I grew up watching boats race and the town change from a kind of Mayberry, to something far more sophisticated.  fullsizeoutput_76aThink about value and what we see as desirable in a location.  We all think about proximity to work and play, but what about dining, shopping, history, libraries, a post office and interesting people?  What about views or the ambiance of a location?

I work in the historic district and generally walk to buy a coffee each day, walk a few blocks to the water and take the time to check new projects like the newest Artisan Homes project, Harbor View. ¬†Pricing for a completed Harbor View home and the obvious interest tells me the demand was complete misunderstood by most. ¬†I’m a broker and I didn’t anticipate quite so many sales this soon or the demand!

Remembering Fernandina and Appreciate Today

In the last few months, Fernandina Beach discussed waterfront parks, marina repair, paid parking and density changes.   Many of us see the changes coming as the rest of the county grows and population adds traffic to the island, potentially making everything a little more prosperous, but a little more crowded.

I miss the island as it was 40 years ago, but have enough perspective to know the memories are colored by nostalgia. ¬†We drove on the beach and had the run of Fort Clinch on the holidays. ¬†Using seine nets at night was an amazing thing, with enough fish for everyone. ¬†A favorite uncle brought a great recipe for beer battered shrimp from Georgia and no one passed down the recipe. ¬†I’m guessing cake batter or coconut cake mix, corn meal and beer. ¬† ¬†I had a great childhood and most of us did. ¬†I miss the island the way it was, but know we can’t go back.

Today, we have Sounds on Centre and great music downtown at places like the Green Turtle. ¬† Kayaks weren’t really a thing 40 years ago, but kayaks are an amazing way to explore the island. ¬† A huge improvement, at least to me, is the heated public pool. ¬†It might be a small thing, but it was pretty important to me when recovering from a shoulder injury. ¬† Think about the restaurants, sports and just the exceptional people. ¬†We have theatre groups and book signings with “Authors”. ¬†Famous people move here and we’re considered lucky to live here by almost everyone. ¬† I literally try to think of ways to talk my family into staying at home for a vacation, because there just isn’t as much to do when we leave.

I always hope to be a part of planning for the future, but will choose to be happy to be a local and feel lucky to call Fernandina home.

Center Street Condos, Front Street and Logic

The rumors of tearing down entire blocks of Centre to build condos is impossible or extremely unlikely for a number of reasons. It stirred up a lot of people during an election, but amounts to fearmongering to people. I tried to explain to a group of people, including one person spreading the rumor, but instead of replying to the explanation, he said I must have some ulterior interest since I‚Äôm in the “INDUSTRY”. Fear brings out the voter, but the average person sees an issue in a newspaper story or hears about it from a neighbor. I was in a group for months looking at the change to density…what it would change and whether it would be a good thing for downtown. At the end of the day, in my opinion, it eventually changes the peak times parking is used and creates a path for use of upstairs areas for residential use…ultimately reducing the use and parking impact on the area.

The market would also not allow a profit with a large scale conversion to condos. The cost is prohibitive, the HDC restricts that kind of demo or makes it very difficult and there are mostly individual owners with very small 25’x100′ lots. ¬†Even with one property using 3 or 4 lots, the large scale demolition and conversion t condominium use is absurd. ¬†All the talk of huge changes, including closing Centre, stirred up everyone, but never was a real possibility.

So, what will happen? ¬†We’ll see renovation of older buildings, leading to preservation, because use can match the need for housing. ¬†We should see parking impact spread over more hours, leading to a reduced parking issue in the future. ¬†We should also see more projects like Harbor View and eventual development of the Standard Marine/Goodsell property. ¬† The CRA should begin to function and we should see logical opening of either Alachua or Broome Street. ¬†By the way, I support an Alachua Street opening over Broome as a more logical location, because I feel Broome is out of the highest point of traffic in commercial zoning along Alachua and because it offers a logical traffic circulation during events. ¬†Pushing a street opening another block toward the port is likely to create an issue with rail access to the port and pushes more traffic toward the 3rd Street residents and homes adjacent to the Port of Fernandina. ¬† ¬†Making Front Street one way toward the port and toward Center, with either possible at the Alachua opening, reduces traffic toward the port from Center, but still allows access for businesses located in a primarily industrial area between Alachua and Dade.

Doesn’t it make sense to consider ways to benefit all stakeholders, including the Port of Fernandina, the City of Fernandina Beach, the CRA and, indirectly, ¬†the surrounding private owners?