Ramifications Of Proposed Amelia Island High-Rise Development On South End

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

— Steve’s Marketplace —

Life is full of change. And Nassau County is experiencing a centenarian’s lifetime of it. 

Our once-rural area is quickly becoming populated, densely in some places. This has ramifications for municipalities, schools, public safety, infrastructure, etc. In a nutshell, our quality of life. 

A proposed high-rise development on the south end of Amelia Island threatens more change, and a lot of it. In fact, it could be a game-changer.  

After all, allowing developers to push the existing height limits is the surest way to threaten our idyllic quality of life. Once you start building up, the population increase is exponential, magnified (i.e. Panama City Beach). We have so far avoided high-rise developments, but this is pretty much that, and on steroids. 

The county recently adopted a 45-foot limit on new buildings. However, the developer contends this would jeopardize its plans – and it should be legally excluded. The developer, Riverstone Properties, plans to build 10 condominium buildings, each 85 feet tall, along with another smaller building on a 50-acre parcel on the south end of Amelia Island. 

Developer Conducting Due Diligence, 55-Acre Amelia Island Oceanfront Parcel
50-Acre Oceanfront Parcel Adjacent to Amelia Island State Park

And since Riverstone claims it would be financially harmed if forced to build smaller condominiums, the company has threatened a lawsuit over it. A public hearing on the Riverstone project will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 23, 2022, before the Nassau County Commission. Concerned residents should attend, and voice their opinions. 

If the county gives in and grants permission for the project, what would prevent another developer from threatening another lawsuit? Once the precedence is set, additional challenges will follow. It’s happened in many other places in Florida. 

Threats of lawsuits should be meaningless to county officials. After all, the county has deeper pockets than any developer, as well as insurance. So, the county can’t make its decisions based on legal challenges. 

There is some hope. County officials and Riverstone are currently negotiating. However, bending rules because of some developer’s contention or threat is yet another dangerous precedence. We should have none of it. It’s not even clear whether Riverstone would move ahead with the project, or instead sell the property to other developers.

The lawsuit between the county and the developer is only the beginning. Several communities on the south end of the island are mobilizing, and have sought out legal representation and opinions. If county commissioners approve the project according to Riverstone’s wishes, resident groups would then file their own lawsuits. 

Unfortunately, if this happens, it’ll be citizens suing the county over its decisions. In other words, citizens suing the officials they elected. Pretty sad, isn’t it? 

If you’ve seen this movie before, you probably have not liked the ending. This could become one of those movies. With infinite possibilities to bring about undesirable change. 

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Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a regional brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in several weekly newspapers in North Florida, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected]     

Further Information

The Nassau County Board of Commission meeting on this issue is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 23, 2022 at the County’s Commission Chambers located within the James S. Page Governmental Complex at 96135 Nassau Pl., Yulee, FL. Nassau County’s meeting agenda item is “Riverstone Properties, LLC – Bert J. Harris Claim” (see more here).” The County published online (May 19, 2022), a “potential settlement agreement” between the County and Riverstone Properties LLC (read it here). Local residents can also contact County commissioners via phone or eMail, see Nassau County commissioners contact info at government website. Note that Nassau County, FL commission meetings are also available via live stream (watch online as they happen, or review past meeting videos at the Nassau County Clerk’s website).