I talked with a friend a few minutes ago. During the conversation, he wanted to know why I felt a blog would have any local impact and it led to thoughts of our last “off-year” election. Fernandina voted to change back to four year terms for commissioners, but the cycle didn’t end until every commissioner holding office for the shorter term rotated through…ending on an even year. Anyway, I thought it would be informative to post a poll to a “locals only” social media group, requesting input into issues facing the city.
In 2017, what are the most important issues facing the Fernandina Beach City Commission? The answers were predictable and interesting. Beyond all other responses, there was a great concern for the Fernandina marina and condition after Hurricane Matthew. As of today, the questions and responses are still open. Interesting in participating? The direct link to the “Poll” is linked here. You should be a local resident to choose concerns or add to the choices. https://www.facebook.com/groups/AmeliaIsland/permalink/1339505372784359/
Moving back to the discussion of blogs and influence, we talked a little about the waterfront and how much or little might happen. I have mixed feelings. The marina and front street need work now. Alachua Street opening is something we must either choose now or risk never having an opportunity to open. The Fernandina Observer has an interesting article covering recent developments along the water and it is worth considering as we move toward an election.
Various Background Documents/Studies Related to the Waterfront, Alachua, Parks or Marina
Front Street Geotechnical Report (March 2012)
Waterfront Park Plan
Waterfront Community Redevelopment Area Plan (CRA Plan)
Community Redevelopment Area Finding of Necessity
Community Redevelopment Area Traffic Circulation/Parking Study
Walker Downtown Parking Study
HDC Recommendations to City Commission (July 2010)
Forward Fernandina Strategic Plan
Beyond the waterfront issues, the decisions facing the city are a little more complicated in 2017. After 2009 to 2012, several changes have a bearing on the decisions surrounding the waterfront. First for many locals, we want to see a functioning marina again. I understand, after taking the time to reach out to current commission members and the marina’s manager, it takes time to rebuild if we want federal assistance. Rebuilding without the assistance after Hurricane Matthew would face another set of criticism. At one point, the concern was a marina without fuel. I’m told fuel should be back in place, hopefully, in December of 2017. Once we receive assistance, assuming this happens, are we rebuilding a flawed design or rebuilding with a relocated channel and further north along Front Street. A larger marina or a marina with slips north of the current location offers several advantages. Less silt is important, but taking advantage of the recently purchased property on Front Street allows greater efficiency and consistently deeper dockage.
Another issue is Front Street. Deteriorating, it is now a frequent spot for overflow parking. Improvements along front, the water, opening Alachua or repairing the failing road, all need to consider the possibility of using the street as a one-way, not two-way street to add parking and possibly improve railway safety. What happens with Alachua? In 2012, it was assumed Alachua might open without any other dramatic changes required. Quiet zones were on the wish list for Fernandina and no one seemed to think about the crossings or potential for any required closure of a street. The world is much more complex….or the waterfront issues are more complex than they were in 2009 or 2012.
So, political leaders are faced with decisions and a snowballing rate of change. We must have repairs to the Fernandina Harbor Marina and Front Street. Repairs and improvements are different issues, but we should consider the likely long term planning for an area before making any change. My hope would be to eliminate most or all the need for dredging silt, preserve parking, repair streets and drainage in a logical fashion and consider any short-term move of the marina in the plan to repair. This appears to be happening….just not quickly.
Other issues we may face in the coming few years include an airport building at a higher than planned budget, potential changes to City Hall as the building nears obsolescence, an offer of a refurbished post office location to the CoFB and continued debate over parking. Since I’m mentioning parking, I do think the parking will change as merchants see a problem. With more than 20 restaurants in Historic Downtown Fernandina, certain times of the day are crowded. Does it matter to my business? I’m usually in the office every morning, but leave for appointments later in the day. The change to density and encouraging diverse uses will do more to reduce the peak need for parking. Meters or managed parking has one purpose, in my opinion….maintain fair and reasonable access for businesses or property owners. If we see any future managed parking in terms of providing access, not revenue generation, it will be universally accepted.