The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners has voted unanimously to enter into a nonbinding purchase and sales agreement for the purchase of approximately 36 acres of land in Hilliard to be used for recreation at a cost of $875,000. The most recent appraisal of the land by Colliers International Valuation and Advisory Services, dated March 31, values it at $970,000.
The property was discussed at the board’s Monday, April 13, meeting, which was held remotely, with only County Manager and Attorney Mike Mullin and BOCC Chairman Danny Leeper in Commission Chambers.
The agreement gives the county a 120-day period to consider purchasing the property located on the St. Marys River near the Kings Ferry community. The property is accessed from Lessie Road and it would be used as a public park providing additional access to the St. Marys River.
The tract of land was appraised in November 2019 at $950,000, but Allison Properties, owner of the land, accepted an offer of $875,000 from the county in March. The purchase would be funded by county recreational impact fees. The contract is nonbinding, so the county would not be obligated to buy the property after conducting due diligence.
Brent Lemond, who is running for the BOCC’s District 3 seat, sent an email raising questions about the sale. The email was read during the public comment portion of the BOCC’s discussion.
“The per acre price is more than $26,000 per acre, more than three times the typical price of similar rural acreage in the county, even factoring in the frontage on the St. Marys River,” Lemond’s email said. He added the county should look for a location suitable for lighted sports fields closer to Callahan and Hilliard and asked the commission to defer entering into the purchase agreement until other locations could be considered.
The BOCC also discussed a request from Sheriff Bill Leeper’s office that $2.2 million in funds the county received for housing federal inmates be used to fund a public safety center, but one county commissioner wants more specific information before the transfer of those funds is approved.
In May 2015, the board entered into an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal detainees in the Nassau County Jail and approved to move those funds in January 2017 from the General Fund reserves to a capital projects fund for a public safety training center on 40 acres of county-owned property off County Road 108.
According to county Public Information Officer Sabina Robertson, the training center will have a firearm range to replace one on State Road 200, as well as a weapons training space, emergency driving tracks, a classroom, a small gym/fitness center, and a “shoot house,” a building for close-quarters indoor training.
Commissioner Pat Edwards had questions regarding the project.
“This (money) was originally set aside to expedite the moving of the shooting range and some other items,” Edwards said, adding that there was no total on the cost of the project or a timeline for beginning or completing it.
Megan Diehl, director of the county’s Office of Management & Budget, said the information was not included with the agenda. The matter was moved to the next BOCC meeting so a timeline and more detailed breakdown of project costs could be provided.
Other BOCC business was postponed.
One such matter was a Beach Habitat Conservation Plan, a joint venture with the city of Fernandina Beach. The city and county would have split the $95,000 cost of the plan. The creation of the plan is the first step in the two governments obtaining an incidental take permit from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection. The permit is required since the city and county both allow driving on portions of their beaches, a threat to sea turtles, an endangered and protected species.
Mullin said Assistant County Manager Taco Pope had met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials regarding the matter, and the BOCC agreed to postpone further discussion until next month.
Other matters postponed until May concern properties
on the south end of Amelia Island.
One proposal involves a change to the county’s Future Land Use Map classification of 3.21 acres located on the south side of Julia Street between Julia Street and Lewis Street from Commercial to High Density Residential.
The other property on the agenda was at Summer Beach, a resolution amending the development order for the Summer Beach Development of Regional Impact and approval of a final development plan for a Planned Unit Development that would allow 28 single-family units to be built.
The Julia Street FLUM change would have been a legislative hearing, while the Summer Beach matters would have been a quasi-judicial hearing. Mullin discussed the procedure, and how it was being affected by the non-public BOCC meetings.
“The issue with hearings, both legislative and quasi-judicial hearings, is that … people do not want to appear in meetings, understandably, and if we held those hearings … you could inhibit people who would want to testify for or against a particular item,” Mullin said. “There is no effective way to do it by remote means … so that’s why we’ve asked the county commission to continue these and may ask for another continuance until June … so that everybody would have a right to participate and hopefully, especially by June, we will see a turn and perhaps we can accommodate that.”
In other business, the BOCC:
• Approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Florida to continue to provide Cooperative Extension Services;
• Approved updates to county Employee Policies and Procedures related to overtime and compensatory time;
• Adopted a resolution relating to prohibiting through truck traffic on Amelia Island Parkway from S.R. 200 to South Fletcher Avenue and on 14th Street from Atlantic Avenue to Amelia Island Parkway, allowing for placement of “No Thru Trucks Over 4 Axles/Local Deliveries Only” signs;
• Authorized changes to the maintenance agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation for the roundabout at South Fletcher Avenue and Sadler Road;
• Empowered Financial Manager Lisa Lynch to approve invoices, requisitions, and budget transfers up to $5,000;
• Awarded a bid to CPR Contracting LLC in the amount of $217,000 for the Stokes Road Bridge Repair Over St. Marys River Project; and
• Approved a resolution honoring Jacob David Berglund, a 16-year-old Nassau County resident who passed away April 12 from leukemia.