Published on March 16, 2023 in the Beaches Leader
To the editor:
Another crowded city council meeting on March 6. The issue drawing the large numbers was the city discussing an attempt to get past the building height limit set into the Jax Beach City Charter by its citizens. Many citizens spoke at the meeting and many of them had interesting ideas. While there was plenty of opposition to the proposed amendment, there were a lot of ideas and examples of very successful and attractive development in our area that stays at or below 35 feet. A top example is in our backyard in Neptune and Atlantic Beaches at the end of Atlantic Boulevard. Most people mentioned that it was a more likely destination for them than Jax Beach. Although this portion of the meeting is for listening to the residents, it doesn’t seem like the council were interested in that. The first reading passed anyway. It doesn’t seem like our council has any idea about how to get our downtown developed beyond listening to some outside investor and trying to push their plan past the residents of Jax Beach. City Manager Mike Staffopoulos described this proposal as “an opportunity to move forward with some type of height increase in the downtown, which could potentially end up being a showcase for a lot of the different exceptions that we’re talking about because we would have total control over the P-3 process.” Who would have control, the citizens or Staffopoulos and the council?
The requirements for the PUD south of Gonzalez Park didn’t mean much. Their trick is to leave a small gap, a requirement, a maybe, a what if, and then push it until it happens the way that they want. We don’t want any more buildings above 35 feet in Jax Beach, period. The council has all of the flexibility that they need within that requirement. They should try to develop a showcase that enhances downtown within attractive limits. What was their mindset when they took office?
Southern Living recently published “The 50 Best Small Towns In The South 2023.” Many of you may have seen this and know that St. Augustine was Number One! This wasn’t for three or four states around the Gulf of Mexico, but extended out to Arkansas and up to Virginia. That wasn’t the end, either. Number 36 was Fernandina Beach! What’s in the middle? We don’t need to hear what compromises we have to make in our community to have a vibrant one. If our council can’t understand this and start to work in this direction, they need to get out of the way and open the space for some representatives who will, and not destroy any chance for this to happen in the future.
This proposed ordinance will come up for a second reading on March 20 and, if approved, will go on the ballot at the May 16 election. There’s little doubt that the council will approve this and the paperwork to get it on the ballot is already submitted: “Shall the Jacksonville Beach Charter be amended to allow the redevelopment of a City-owned property bounded by 1st Street North, 2nd Street North, Latham Plaza, and 111 Beach Boulevard, exempting the property from the 35 feet height limit, to allow a maximum building height of 55 feet for a mixed-use redevelopment with a parking structure?”
Better be prepared to get out and vote NO on this on May 16.