Lime and 14th Liberty Development Project…What We Should Know!

Source: PAB City of FB

Development can be a difficult business, but the general public is often unaware of steps required in using land and efforts by developers to use land, while protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Fernandina Beach is blessed with a surplus of protected land, including parks, beachfront, marshes, waterways, recreational zoned areas and, yes, jurisdictional wetland. The common perception of wetland is of land with standing water or a bird at the edge of Egan’s Creek.

 

Pines Line 14th Street

In developing Lime and 14th, Liberty Development took time to find a better solution and considered what was more sensitive to the community, when he could have chosen to avoid the very political process.  If you look at the property, you can see the raised areas of roadway near the property…essentially trapping additional water and nearby development, forcing added burden on the property. At elevations of 12′ to 19′, according to the Nassau County GIS system, the land isn’t particularly low, but drainage does move across properties during a storm and all wetlands aren’t at low elevation. By the way, the 12′ elevation is in a ditch, running through the property along an unopened easement.

Nassau County GIS Mapping

The problem I have with criticizing development of this property is in seeing it as a pristine, untouched parcel, when it has been negatively impacted by surrounding roads, wetland and drainage. Key points below cover some of the information provided in a Planning and Advisory Board document and in the upcoming required information posted by the USACE. The developer made exceptional effort to propose a development with less impact, even though he could have easily filled the site before annexation, based on SJRWMD and Nassau County requirements. Liberty Development and Spurgeon Richardson deserve credit for taking the time to look for community input, bringing much needed market rate housing and taking the time to minimize wetland impacts.  If you look below, the applicant is also purchasing valuable mitigation land to offset the impact to this site.

City of Fernandina Beach Staff has issued a recommendation of approval. The Planning Advisory Board considered the requested Voluntary Annexation at its Regular Meeting on September 14, 2016, and issued a recommendation of approval. On October 18, 2016, the City Commission approved this Ordinance at First Reading. Source: FBFL.US PAB Summary and Introduction http://www.fbfl.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/7302?fileID=4922 6/20/17

AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION: – The applicant obtained authorization from the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD Permit 143031-1) to eliminate the entire on site wetland area (totaling 12.75 acres). However, the applicant conducted a financial analysis and determined that the project could be economically viable with a net 224 multi-family units. In consideration of that analysis, the applicant revised the project design to eliminate a portion of the work affecting the on site wetland. In consideration of the design revisions, the applicant purports that the project avoids and minimizes work affecting the wetland to the maximum extent practicable. COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: – The applicant submitted a Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure (WRAP) quantifying and qualifying the wetland functions and services that would be eliminated by the work proposed. In consideration of that WRAP, as compensatory mitigation, the applicant would purchase 4.85 Federal palustrine forested credits from the Longleaf Mitigation Bank. ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the project would have no effect on Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) or its designated critical habitat.PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean fill material over a total of 9.7 acres of wetlands to facilitate the establishment of a mixed-use development, which would include associated infrastructure, parking, amenities, and storm water management.  Source: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Public-Notices/Article/1216796/saj-1995-03715-sp-mre/ 6/20/17 US Army Corps of Engineers

On a final note, I was the acting Mayor of the City of Fernandina Beach,  when this project was first proposed.  While I was not a part of the final approvals, I felt it was my responsibility to consider every project carefully.   This developer deserves praise.  He sought local consensus from the community.   Given the final product, the project is something the community should be proud of in this location. Not only did he go to great lengths to preserve wetland, he showed restraint in moving through a process….looking for a more accepted product.  He actually held permits to move forward with clearing/mitigation, without annexation and the established procedure, in conflicting jurisdiction rules, defaults to a St. John’s River Water Management ruling.  In other words, the developer went above and beyond the steps required.

Ditch with Trash in the Center of Property

Dirt road through center of property….at edge of ditch.

 

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