The vote at tonight’s City Council meeting was disappointing, but no surprise. Council decided 5 to 2 to place a Charter Amendment on the May 16th ballot to allow for an exception to the 35′ height limit for the public property south of Latham Plaza so it can be developed up to a height of 55′. Those voting in opposition were Council members Sandy Golding and Bill Horn. Those voting in favor were the Mayor along with Council members Nichols, Janson, Meza, and Sutton.
As noted in Georgette Dumont’s letter to the Beaches Leader, some of these issues are complex and it is the responsibility of the Council to explain that complexity to the voters. They have not done so, which has resulted in an obvious lack of trust between residents on the Council. Residents feel left out and that they are being bamboozled by their elected representatives. Yet Council is asking for voters to vote in favor of this height exception without knowing what they will be looking for from a public-private partnership (P3)! This is unacceptable. As stated numerous times in tonight’s meeting, their job is to represent the voters.
What is most disheartening is the refrain from Council that this is what the residents want because they want to see the downtown activated. They heard this in the Visioning sessions and when knocking on doors during election season. Yes, Jax Beach residents DO want to see the downtown activated, but as can be seen in our neighbors to the north, a height increase is not needed! The real estate market in Jax Beach right now is booming with people and businesses purchasing property knowing there is a 35′ height limit. The argument that if you want a vibrant downtown then we have to raise the height limit is a false dichotomy. It is not either or, and they know it.
For the last couple of months, Council members Cory Nichols, Dan Janson, Fernando Meza, and Mayor Chris Hoffman have decided to ignore the residents that have filled the Council Chamber to side with developers to push for developments that do not align with what residents view as ‘the beach life.’ They have been combative and at times disrespectful. Before we can vote most of them out of office (all the at large council seats as well as the mayor will be on the ballot for the 2024 election), the first action will be to vote down the height referendum at the ballot. Tell your neighbors and make sure they are registered to vote (they have until April 17th to register, and it can be done online) and that they get to the polls on May 16th or vote early!