Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
It has the characteristics of a John Grisham novel – intrigue, suspense, and a plot that leaves you guessing.
It is based on Amelia Island, like one of Grisham’s latest books. But instead of a who-done-it mystery, it has more of a who-will-do-it theme. And it is suddenly the talk of the town.
Amelia Island Oceanfront Parcel
The guessing and conjecture are hovering over an idyllic wooded parcel on the south end of Amelia Island. A 48-acre oceanfront property with the potential to be another pristine resort, the caliber of a Four Seasons Hotel.
Residents are debating it; county officials are following it. All we know so far is that the privately owned tract is being shopped around for future development. It could involve a hotel, condominiums, etc. according to reports. One local official described it as “a perfect site” for another in a line of glitzy resorts here.
Next To Amelia Island State Park
Certainly, there might be push back by residents to developing the pristine lot bordering the Amelia Island State Park. Especially following unbridled development of other parcels on the island. (Of note, many residents opposed the construction of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the late 1980s.)
However, a private landowner is entitled to develop his property according to building/zoning specifications. A caveat would be a request for a change in zoning. Any zoning change should and would be heavily scrutinized.
“I respect property rights,” says one resident, “and I can only hope the developer has a conscience and takes care of the land.”
Amelia Bluff Controversy
If you think residents are not following the recent slip ups, they are — as evidenced by more than 100 people showing up the Fernandina Beach City Commission meeting Tuesday night over a controversial development issue. Although the south end parcel would fall under Nassau County supervision.
There is confusion about new development “privatizing” the beach in front of it. But it would not be any more private than the beach frontage at the Ritz-Carlton or the Omni. Beach driving is permitted within the boundaries of Amelia Island State Park next to the property. If the property is developed, it should not impede on the state park or its activities.
This is hardly the only major commercial investment for our area. The phones at the local economic development office are ringing like those for Jaguars ticket orders, after the free-agent signing of Nick Foles. And it has a ring of potential opportunity.
“This year has started off so strong,” says one official. This follows a sudden downturn in economic activity in the last quarter of 2018, coupled with the stock market collapse.
Monitor Growth Closely
Growth cannot be deterred. However, it must be monitored, although overwhelmed building officials are slipping in this sense. Too many trees are recklessly bulldozed, sand dunes are gutted, and hammocks are leveled. This must stop.
New development must be done in accordance with our codes and fragile ecosystem. It can become an asset, an amenity. Like having Grisham as our neighbor, not to mention fellow author David Baldacci.
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor for a U.S. brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns appear regularly in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, as well as his website: www.SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has also published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of some of his favorite columns over the past 20 years. The book is available at local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].