The idea came to me a few years ago and the timing never worked, until Covid 19 (aka the Wuhan Virus, China Virus, Corona Virus….). Anyway, with a slower than normal year and restrictions on work impacting almost every business, it seemed like a great time to see the country. Back in June, 99% of work was remote or by phone and I really missed very little. My family was not entirely enthusiastic about my plan to see the country by motorcycle, during a pandemic, as a hurricane was moving north and as protests turned violent across the country, but it seemed like a a perfect time to me.
The pictures below are a few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy and think a little about the time we spent shutdown here in Fernandina. I can say my personal experiences were of towns with very little traffic and nearly empty main streets. Some parts of the country are going to feel 2020 for years and most of us really don’t know the vast impact of a shutdown. As much as we’re criticized for taking too little action or too much action, it was a fine line between public health and economic survival.
Back to a positive note, I met some of the most interesting people and had amazing food along the way. Hotels were almost empty, rates were often below 50% and I was generally treated like a king. One of my initial goals was a trip along part of Route 66. I would recommend paralleling this on 44 or just sampling portions. Closed gas stations and empty stretches make it difficult. I picked it up for a while near St. Louis and then for parts near Santa Fe on the way home. We really do have an incredible country and traveling with only a few stops on the plan is actually much easier on a bike.
Busy is normally very good for a Florida beach town, unless people are congregating during a pandemic. As unlikely as it would seem, some areas on the local beach were just as crowded as you might expect on any other spring weekend, even though all bars and restaurants were closed for everything except takeout. Many tags were not local.
Main Beach earlier today and a view along Ocean Avenue shows just how busy we were at an unlikely time.
Sometimes sales calls are mundane and sometimes the person on the other end won’t stop talking. I should say, they won’t stop talking long enough to listen. Social media and connection to clients is largely pointless if you’re paying an unlicensed person to create the content, then sharing that content across “DOZENS” of other sites…often your direct competition in the same market. Earlier today, someone made an unsolicited call offering to manage my social media accounts. In the next breath, he told me there were hundreds of agents using the system. He wasn’t licensed….and has no local experience in this market. Beyond the lack of connection, the point of using social media, his offer would likely damage my credibility and reputation by creating a lower quality of content, while disconnecting me from connected clients. Seriously?!? I said no politely…three times. Then finally laughed and finally disconnected.
Having something to add to the conversation means a lot and knowledge means a lot. I tend to focus on a handful of clients and listings. Unlike many larger offices, I know every client. I’m the broker, but I’m also the one writing the contract, attending an inspection, attending the closing, creating a spreadsheet and double checking the estimates for closing. I order the surveys, coordinate with a closing agent, type my own contracts, answer my own emails and, yes, I write and reply to promotions on social media.
Why choose to work with me or a smaller office? Well, spreading responsibility across various people can work, but coordinating those people, hoping nothing gets in the way of that coordination, hoping each one does what they’re expected to do at the right time….that isn’t easy. It also adds expense and can mean the weakest part of that chain has an impact on the rest of the process. Do larger offices sell more property. Sure. Asking about total volume is like asking if big cars use more fuel than smaller cars.
The real questions should center on time spent with a listing, who answers the phone, who sets up showings, what happens when an offer is presented and is the most experienced person always available to reply to a phone call or message. Who creates the content and is that person experienced enough to offer value. The image below is something I personally shot. Does it matter if I’m the one using the drone, attending the showing, writing the contract, answering the phone, scheduling your showing or creating a post on social media? I think it does matter. Real estate commissions can be substantial. I hope to bring personal experience, not just canned advertising spam …someone actually tried to sell me a few hours ago.
I don’t like wasting words. I take that back…I do enjoy this blog and there are times when this feels like the best way to put thoughts into the virtual world. Yesterday, I spent some time taking update pictures of the City of Fernandina Beach Marina. Looking at the view from above, this really is the most under-appreciated and underused asset in the city. Finishing this project and, also, controlling the impact is could have on the CoFB as a whole is pretty important.
Considering the direction things are going or have gone in recent commission meetings, don’t we have enough plans to move forward with a logical improvement of the waterfront. Sometimes planning again is a waste of money. We should be focused on finishing pieces of the areas surrounding the water, if not the actual waterfront. Think about finishing projects, not dreaming of new projects.
Simmons Road Park…..now that would be an entirely new discussion. Funding changed and we are already increasing the tax burden on residents with environmental land purchases and the third or fourth set of waterfront studies/plans? While I love the idea of serving every citizen in the city, we also tend to build facilities or expand “NEW” areas with the misguided belief we have somehow found money in the recreational impact fee magic money tree. It might be popular to vote to build something, but paying the maintenance associated with every single structure makes that decision something the taxpayer is burdened with forever. We need some common sense and, lacking common sense, at least be willing to ask the right questions. Do we have money in the budget or are we just planning to increase the tax rate? Are we planning for future maintenance costs? Do taxpayers support the decision and are they willing to pay the real cost? Are we spending city tax dollars to serve city residents? Are we prioritizing decisions logically?
The profound changes coming after completion of this project will be felt on Amelia, not during construction, but after construction as homes are completed and access to the best area beaches is suddenly easier to reach. Consider the rooftops coming in and in the vicinity of Wildlight. Consider where those new residents will choose to visit and which beaches are most convenient. Free parking, restaurants and the time to reach a resource mean Fernandina and Amelia Island should see record levels in 2020.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began construction in January 2017 on the area’s first Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) at Interstate 95 in Nassau County. This project consists of widening the roadway from 4 lanes to 6 lanes with raised medians, curb & gutter, sidewalks and bicycle lanes (2 miles). This project will also include the addition of a new Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI)* under I-95 at A1A Exit 373 (to Callahan/Yulee/Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island). The project began construction in January, 2017, and is expected to be completed by summer 2020.
One of the first lessons learned, when elected to office…is serious and meant to create reasonable local government. In other words, the charter is supposed to protect the taxpayer or voter from the “unreasonable”. Election comes with limits. Direction of employees or direction to move funds from department to department, study an issue….all goes through a “Charter Officer” and the commission as a body, not the department head. Commissioners are not entitled to act as city manager or run roughshod over the charter. This means, conversations with employees are limited to information gathering and generally will happen after notification of the manager or appropriate charter officer prior or after specific direction by a commission. The danger of either directing action in violation of the charter or a perception of directing is increased when we have direct appointment of members to boards, active/frequent/vocal attendance at advisory meetings and an excessive and overwhelming presence in day to day operations at City Hall.
Sec. 10. – Powers generally; dealing with administrative service through Charter Officers required; violations deemed misdemeanor, penalty.
(a)The Mayor and Commissioners shall not, in any manner, dictate the appointment or removal of any city officers or employees whom the Charter Officer or any of his/her subordinates are empowered to appoint, evaluate and supervise.(b)All powers of the City, except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by the constitution of this state, are hereby vested in the City Commission. Except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by the constitution of this state, the City Commission may by ordinance or resolution prescribe the manner in which any power of the city shall be exercised.(c)The Mayor and Commissioners shall deal with administrative service through the respective Charter Officer. The Mayor and Commissioners shall not directly interfere with or direct the conduct of any employee in the discharge of prescribed duties. However, with the express permission of the respective Charter Officer, the Mayor and Commissioners may communicate directly with an employee.(d)Any violation of the provisions of this section by any member of the City Commission shall, upon first offense be grounds for sanction by the Commission, and any second or subsequent offense or violation within a commissioner’s term shall constitute a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof before any court of competent jurisdiction the violator shall be fined in an amount not exceeding two hundred dollars ($200.00), or be imprisoned for a period not exceeding six (6) months, or both, at the discretion of the court, and shall be subject to removal from office.(e)Investigations or inquiries shall be conducted pursuant to Section 136 of this charter.
Sometimes it makes sense to consider what a community wants. This corner appears to lend itself to use as a convenience store and gas station, but what else might fit? What does the community need and want on this corner?
I tend to see locations like this as a challenge. The 2.64 acre site is big enough for more than one use, so uses like, hypothetically, a Chick-fil-a might work with another use like a convenience store or a second restaurant. Drive through with access from the Lime Street side would be ideal. What about an Aldi or another smaller grocery chain? This site would be closer to a number of apartments and walkable for a significant population. I didn’t mention it yet, but the acreage is equivalent to a larger site with the right to use retention “off site” included as a part of the PUD.
I won’t list all potential uses, but I wonder what the community might like?