FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — Nassau County commissioners took public comments Monday on a proposed agreement between the county and building developers that would allow for new condo towers on Amelia Island that are nearly twice as high as the law allows.
This comes after developer Riverstone Properties, who owns 50 acres of land near Amelia Island State Park, filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the county's building height limits.
Some residents are afraid the county only has two options, allow the 85-foot tall buildings or face a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
“People come here because it’s a small town and there’s a lot of natural beauty. I’m not against growth or anything, but there is a point in any, my yard, anywhere where you don’t do anymore adding to it," Robert Brown, a 22-year resident, said.
A group of residents believes the 45-foot building height restriction should be enforced to prevent intensive development and protect the environment.
“That’s going to definitely negatively impact the density, especially the south end, that’s dense enough," said John Elwell, who moved here in 1988.
Riverstone Properties plans to build eleven 85-foot beachfront condos on the south end of Amelia Island. They filed a $27 million lawsuit arguing the county’s 45-foot limit would violate the Bert Harris Property Rights Act, which property owners against ordinances that would reduce the value of their land.
A proposed settlement offer would give developers the green light to build the properties as long as they also preserve the natural buffer along First Coast Highway, supply natural buffer along the northern boundary of the property, and donate land for county beach access.
County officials must now decide whether to accept the proposed settlement, an agreement that some fear sets a terrible precedent.
“Once you say yes to one, then everybody claims they’re being discriminated against," Brown said. "I’m not against growth, but at some point somebody’s got to say wait a minute, enough is enough.”
Riverstone’s attorney, T.R. Hainline was not available for an interview.