After meeting privately with City Commissioners late last month, a consulting firm now says it can create a waterfront redevelopment plan for $246,950. And they want the money in a “lump sum” payment. The cost of a previous proposal delivered by the company in May totaled $162,000.
The city released the latest proposal from Dix.Hite + Partners late Friday along with notes from private meetings the consulting firm held with each commissioner on May 31 to discuss their goals for the project.
The documents, released in a public records request, reveal divide among the board about the scale and scope of work. But there was also concern about public reaction to the higher cost. According to the consultant, two commissioners asked for help with messaging.
Mayor Robin Lentz reportedly said, “We need help with social media and PR.”
Public relations will be important. The notes said Ms. Lentz believes waterfront redevelopment will be put to a referendum.
The consultant also noted concern about persuasive communication from Commissioner Johnny Miller: “He needs us to help him with the right message to citizens – social media/press releases, why does it cost what it costs to do study?” And, they said, “He wants to be the champion!”
The consultant also said that two other commissioners expressed concern about people who disrupt plans for change. “The negative residents kill the projects,” according to notes assigned to Commissioner Len Kreger, while Commissioner Tim Poynter reportedly told the consultant that the Fernandina Observer, a popular local news and opinion website, was started to “compete against the naysayers”…”this paper is supportive.”
For the new proposal, the company in Longwood, Florida said in the eight-page document that they will host a series of “intensive” workshops to establish the design concept, clarify “the WHY?” for the project, and then draft and refine the plan. Key stakeholders and the public would be invited to various meetings with the city, according to the proposal.
The price includes help with the construction budget, though there would be additional fees for revisions, such as additional meetings, signage and graphics, permitting, variances, and zoning applications, among other items. Depending on who helps, the cost ranges from $65.00 per hour to $185.00 per hour. The company says it will team with four other firms to develop the plan and work could begin two weeks after an agreement is signed.
The consultant says the plan will enhance “aesthetics, pedestrian and vehicular connections, and public realm qualities of the Amelia River waterfront.” The project area is identified as N. 8th St. to the edge of the existing Amelia River seawall and from Beach St. to Broome St.
Representatives from the company are scheduled to present the plan on Tuesday at a special meeting of the City Commission. The meeting June 20 begins at 5:00 p.m. and will be held in the Commission Chambers at City Hall at 204 Ash St. in downtown Fernandina Beach. The city’s regular meeting will follow at 6:00 p.m. If possible, stick around. According to the agenda, the storm water manager is going to propose a rate increase.
The consultant made a chart of waterfront issues first presented months ago during the Request for Qualifications and issues that were discussed during the private interviews, including wayfinding, marina landside improvements, public workshops, additional waterfront property, bike facilities, and funding.
Mr. Kreger was said to have expressed concern about growth and its impact on the upcoming city elections. “Election will be based on uncontrolled growth vs. smart growth. Uncontrolled growth is happening now.”… “Density is changing to be increased with no thought about parking.”
Mr. Kreger also reportedly said, “Urbanization = more stress” … “Preserve and enhance downtown” … “Create downtown special assessment district.”
Below are other comments Dix.Hite noted from the interviews. While commissioners have expressed many of these thoughts and ideas at public meetings, some statements sound new and perhaps more candid than those delivered in the commission chamber.
Ms. Lentz: “Most important is the waterfront park, traffic circulation, appearance of Front St. and opening Alachua with the one way of streets.”
Mr. Kreger: “Buy north Front St. including all private property up to Florida petroleum to create regional park (to secure funding) with maritime education center, swings, waterfront amenities, boardwalk, tour boats, exclude the marina from the project and let it be its own project if channel can be moved, natural shoreline, kid focused that is hands on…” … “A referendum should move forward to purchase property for the park. Referendum is a scary thing for citizens.”
Mr. Poynter: “Create a park, improve gravel parking on south end, improve r/r crossing and create a better front street that is pedestrian focused.”
Mr. Miller: “St. Marys is a great example that the citizens need to see so they understand what’s missing and why a park will work at the marina.” “He wanted to do a smaller park but after hearing us do presentation decided it needs to be the big picture/master plan.”
Commissioner Roy Smith: “Concerned with how we facilitate R/R crossing improvements.”
Mayor Lentz: “Paid parking is not a bad option on Centre Street pushing long term parking to the public lots or side streets.” … “Move the parking to the south unpaved lot and create an awesome park at the end of Centre St.” … “Reconfigure/restripe parking next to City Hall – can be done now.”
Mr. Kreger: “Remove city hall and use site for additional parking.”… “No parking problem.”
Mr. Poynter: “Parking is not going away…Need a comprehensive plan to ‘connect the dots’” … “Need a parking and transportation circulation study.”
Mr. Smith: “What we got is a walking problem – people want to park right in front of the businesses on Centre St. Convenience can’t be the priority. Plenty of parking on side streets.”
Mr. Miller: “Increased density will affect current parking.” … “Parking analysis needs to be part of scope to support development of waterfront project.”
Ms. Lentz: “Minimize boat parking and have captains apply for a permit for the year”
Mr. Kreger: “Marina loses money – it’s not sustaining – money being spent on this and not other important improvements for the city and its residents.” … “Don’t want to spend a lot of money on a marina that doesn’t benefit residents.”
Mr. Poynter: “Issues this project won’t address – relocation of the marina….”
Mr. Smith: “Don’t worry about marina – too tough to keep in scope and work with citizens.”
Ms. Lentz: “She like the idea of improve(ing) the 14th St. boat ramp if the city boat ramp is removed.” … “Need a drop-off area for visitors to get things to their boats.”
Mr. Poynter: “Move the boat ramp and utilize the closest public ramp. This will eliminate the boats and trucks coming into downtown and taking up parking in the south parking lot.”
Mr. Smith: “City boat ramp is in exactly the wrong place and should be moved, just not sure where…”
Mr. Miller: “Moving this will be a hard sell and political in nature. We need to explain how a working marina doesn’t need a boat ramp.”
Front St. Flooding
Ms. Lentz: “Stormwater/sea level rise is not a priority.”
Mr. Kreger: “Front Street issues are stormwater related.” … “Stormwater improvements can move forward if funding comes through from the state.”
Mr. Poynter: “Front Street only floods occasionally – don’t want to spend a lot of money to prevent.”
Mr. Smith: “Flooding on Front St. can happen with full moon and high tide – this needs to be addressed.”
Mr. Miller: “Stormwater, tidal, sea level rise infrastructure needs to be addressed.” … “Plan needs to look out 150 years.”
Ms. Lentz: “Can we afford this?” “We are minimizing the scope with additional add alterations.”
Mr. Kreger: “Stay focused on the waterfront and keep the fee capped at $100,000.”
Mr. Poynter: “$260,000-$270 appropriate for our proposal.”
Mr. Miller: “Cost of original fee is not of concern to him.”