April 21, 2023
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After reconsideration of a plan for parking in Fernandina Beach, the city commission decided to leave parking at the waterfront alone and not remove any spaces adjacent to the Fernandina Harbor Marina.
The plan, approved at the April 4 city commission meeting, was created by the Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board, and if implemented as presented, would have added 20 parking spaces total but would have removed 37 from Parking Lots A and B at the Amelia River waterfront.
People spoke at that meeting, including some who run businesses, such as cruises and fishing charters, out of the marina. They said their businesses, as well as local residents visiting downtown, needed the parking. At that meeting, the commission approved the plan with the exception of Parking Lot A by a 4-1 vote, with Vice Mayor David Sturges casting the dissenting vote. He said changing the parking situation at the marina is “a waste of time and money,” as things will change when the lease on the city-owned building that houses Brett’s Waterway Cafe, which is at the center of the marina, runs out in 2025.
City Commissioner James Anton, however, said he was not comfortable with his vote on the matter and asked it be put on the agenda of the April 18 city commission meeting.
“For me, this is an error I made,” Anton said. “As I had mentioned, but not voted consistent with, leaving these parking lots alone until we figure out what we do with Brett’s is what I’d like to see.”
Several people spoke at the meeting, including the chairs of the city’s Marina Advisory Board and Alan Hopkins, chair the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board, who said, “Without solving the parking problem, we are going to have real major problems In the future. You can’t just keep kicking the can down the road.”
After discussion, the city commission unanimously voted to approve the parts of the CRAAB plan that would add 57 parking spaces throughout the downtown and leave Parking Lots A and B as they are.
Another item on the April 18 agenda was to allow the city attorney to work with the city claims administrator to defend Sturges before the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Although the commission did not discuss the matter, Commissioner Chip Ross abstained from voting on it. He said he abstained after considering the city charter, the city commission rules of procedure and on advice from the city attorney and Joe Burns of the ethics commission. He also cited Florida statutes 286.101.2 (voting requirements at meetings), 112.311 (intent of a code of ethics), 112.313 (conflict of interest), 112.326 (local governments can require stricter standards than state law), 112.3143 (voting conflicts) and Florida Attorney General opinion 87-17 (voting abstinence to avoid the appearance of impropriety). Sturges recused himself from voting on the matter. It passed with a 3-0 vote.
The commission voted to hire an executive search team to assist with finding a new city manager, following the termination of former City Manager Dale Martin in February. The city had asked one of the firms who responded to the Request for Qualifications if it would furnish parts of its process: recruiting applicants, vetting them and then providing that list back to a citizens committee, who would, in turn, make recommendations to the city commission. However, the firm declined that request, and so the city commission voted to hire Colin Baenziger to perform its entire process.
Arlene Filkoff, who served as city commissioner from May 2010 to December 2013 and mayor from December 2011 to December 2012, addressed the commission, saying it had made the right decision in hiring a search firm.
“When I sat on the commission a similar thing happened, where the city manager was terminated 16 days after the election,” Filkoff said. “The commission at the time refused to go with a professional search firm. We used ICM (International City/County Management Association), which was the second best. Professional is far better.”
Filkoff cautioned against having a new city manager in mind before going through the process.
“What I hope we are doing is being transparent with what we are looking for. We weren’t back then (when she was mayor),” Filkoff explained. “What happened back then was there was a preconceived name, three out of five commissioners knew who they wanted. They let us go through that process. They let a bunch of citizens come and meet people and weigh in and then they said, ‘Oh no, we know who we want,’ and that’s what they did. I got to sit in your seat, Mayor Bean, when that was happening and let me tell you, it’s awful to be in that position and feel like you’re fooling your community. Don’t fool us. Do this and do it transparently and don’t have some preconceived name. Please don’t do that. If you’re going to be honest with us, be honest with us, please.”
In other business, the city commission:
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