Leeper: Facemasks ‘not a political issue’

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Public meetings have changed a lot because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners wants residents to know you do not have to appear in person in order to be heard. Comments or questions for the board can be sent via email or voicemail and they will be disseminated at the meeting.

Citizens can still come to the board’s chambers to speak, or they can speak from a temporary podium outdoors, but everyone needs to wear a mask. That was the message from County Manager and Attorney Mike Mullin on Monday, when several citizens expressed their views via the alternate means.

Mullin read a resident’s statement asking the board not to enact more mandatory rules about facemasks, saying that people were now meeting the requirements. Another citizen phoned in to say a minority of people are making the decisions about mask wearing. That citizen advocated for the right of people to decide for themselves to wear a mask, saying it had become a political issue. Another speaker commented from the outside podium.

Chairman Danny Leeper responded that the board is “on record on what we are attempting to do to keep our county safe and we will continue to do everything we can to keep our county safe.” Leeper added, “This is not a political issue. This is a health and safety issue and we will do whatever we need to do to save one life.”

A third death here from COVID-19 has been officially recorded. At the end of Monday’s meeting, commissioners Thomas Ford and Pat Edwards extended condolences to Jeff Hartman’s family, his wife, and children. Hartman died Sunday.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 548 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nassau County, according to a post on the Facebook page of Nassau County Emergency Management. The number of people released from isolation by the Florida Department of Health was reported as 193. Five people are currently in Baptist Medical Center Nassau.

Mike Pikula from Friends of The Amelia Island Trail, Inc. said at the Monday meeting that as of July 1 state law permits motorized vehicles on all trails unless the local county takes exception. He would like the county to make that exception, and the board voted unanimously to discuss it at a meeting on Aug. 24.

The board temporarily adjourned and reconvening as the South Amelia Island Shore Stabilization Municipal Service Benefit Unit Governing Board in order to discuss a resolution concerning the South Amelia Shore Stabilization Municipal Service Benefit Unit, or MSBU, which, among other steps, establishes “the method of assessing the maintenance cost” and calls for a public hearing on the “imposition of the proposed maintenance assessments and the methods of their collection.”

The special taxing district was created by property owners on the south end of Amelia Island who elected to self-impose a tax to help fund dredging and placing sand on the beach to nourish and stabilize the shoreline. All assessments are paid by the property owners within the MSBU. William R. Moore presented the resolution to the board. After its approval, the BOCC reconvened.

Leeper was authorized by the board to sign a change order for the Fire Station 71 Design/Build Project reducing the cost by $31,604.00, extending the substantial completion date from January 2021 to April 2021, and modifying the new station’s HVAC system at an increased cost of $219,132.

Doug Podiak, Nassau County Facilities Maintenance director, discussed the fire station’s change orders, saying the HVAC one is for a “new standard of HVAC systems that we want to use in all of our fire stations,” adding “the new system will let us control humidity based along with temperature. … It will control the environment a lot better and with this being a standard for our future fire stations.” He said the reductions were due to having smaller blocks and the types of countertops. Podiak said after this experience, in the future, “We can go out with a bid-build instead of a design-build.”

The board unanimously approved a final plat for Marsh View Townhomes, allowing 11 duplex residential units for a total of 22 units. The property is on the south side of State Road 200/A1A and west of the Thomas J. Shave Jr. Bridge.

The following items were continued to the July 27 meeting:

• A memorandum of understanding with JEA for design and construction of the William Burgess Extension Project water main from U.S. 17 to Miner Road.

• A development plan for Parcel L of the Nassau Center PUD; 4,650 square feet, a convenience store with gasoline fueling station, located at 96001 Lofton Square Court. Chris Salemi of Aileron Acquisition spoke briefly about the project.

There were three public hearings moved to the July 27 meeting: a Small-Scale Future Land Use Map amendment for American Beach seeking to change the classification of 3.21 acres between Julia Street and Lewis Street from Commercial to High Density Residential (HDR); an amendment to the development order for The Summer Beach Development of Regional Impact (DRI) providing for up to 28 multi-family residential units on Parcel D-1; and the “Final Development Plan” for Parcel D-1.

The final development plan for Phase 1C, segments 1 and 2 of the Amelia National “Planned Unit Development” of 91 single-family residential units and associated infrastructure brought numerous speakers and discussion.

Valerie Feinberg, the interim director of the Nassau Planning & Economic Opportunity Department, reviewed Amelia National. She said the PUD was approved by Ordinance 2000-05 with a maximum development program of 40 residential units, 20,000 square feet of commercial uses, an 18-hole golf course, and associated amenities. In 2002, it was amended to expand the boundaries of the PUD and increase the maximum residential development to 749 single-family homes. In 2003, it was amended to allow for 20 timeshare multi-family units, and in 2014 it was amended for tennis facilities.

Feinberg’s slides show the developer now proposes constructing 91 single-family residential homes and associated infrastructure on the north and east sides of Amelia Concourse and west of County Road 107/Old Nassauville Road, and a 20-foot wide emergency access road between Wild Cherry Drive and Amelia Concourse.

Mullin told the board that an agreement was reached with the developer and builder regarding the emergency access road and the permanent road to be completed as it was originally written in the development plan.

T.R. Hainline, an attorney represented Amelia National Enterprise LLC and ICI Homes, was present to answer questions.

Jerry Dawkins, a resident of Amelia National, spoke about the need for secondary access for fire and emergency vehicles. Roger Ridings, representing the homeowners in Amelia National, spoke to the timing of the secondary road as originally planned, saying the issue with the PUD is it did not have a date for the secondary entrance. The current standard is that if you have more than 25 lots, you must have a secondary exit.

Fire Chief Brady Rigdon confirmed the secondary road would assist in emergencies, but there was also discussion about the need for a Knox Box system, where first responders have a key to a secure cabinet containing documents, keys, and access cards.

Hainline stated, “We’re consenting (to the changes) on the record. We think we have done everything everyone has asked us to do. We provided two things in this final development plan that are not in the current PUD. Two benefits people have been asking for, and so we think that overall this is a benefit for us and a benefit for everybody that has been asking for these things.”

James Stowers, the chief development officer of ICI Homes, said that there would be a separate lock on the gate for the construction crew and that the construction movement would be through the emergency access road and not through the front gate. He stated this would be a significant benefit for the residents in the neighborhood.

Leeper discussed the possibility of an automatic device allowing responders to not have to unlock the gate. He said he would work on this with Rigdon and Hainline.

Commissioner Aaron Bell commented, “This situation with Amelia National shows the reason why we have public hearings. When we considered these matters at the planning and zoning boards, we found out that there was no timeline on a secondary entrance and the citizens got their letters in the mail and they said, ‘Well, we want a second entrance.’” Finally, Leeper said he wants to get more information out to the public about the U.S. Census. The response rate participation in Nassau County is currently 59.2%. Leeper related that people can participate by telephone, by mail and online. He underlined the importance of everyone participating in the census.