FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – The Fernandina Beach City Commission voted Tuesday evening in favor of a plan to build a new subdivision on land that was originally set aside for conservation.
The development, known as Amelia Bluff, has been a hot topic in Fernandina Beach in recent months. The land sits next to the Egans Creek Greenway, a protected area of over 300 acres.
Robert Wells is one of about a hundred people who were fighting Tuesday night to persuade their city commissioners to vote no on the development.
"It's our green space we love, and we're just concerned about protecting it," Wells said.
Wells along with others, like Daniel Schuster, had high hopes their voices would be heard.
"It's a very emotional issue," Schuster said. "But at the same time, it's also a very practical issue. It's an issue of government in action. People talking to the commissioners. The commissioner should listen to what the people are saying and then make an informed decision based upon what they know and what we would feel we elect them for."
Following hours of comments from the public, the commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the development. Reaction to the decision was met with cries of concern and anger.
"The entire city commission just turned into a bunch of sell-outs," said Jules Ruppel, a resident who was opposed. "We are selling out our island, like Joni Mitchell said, paving over paradise, putting in parking lots."
Tuesday’s vote means construction can continue on a 32 home subdivision right across from Fernandina Beach Middle and High schools.
Controversy on the project began in February when City Commissioners voted 3-2 to change the future land use for the property from conservation to residential. Commissioners were going to vote on the issue a month ago, but tabled it until Tuesday after receiving so much negative feedback from the people who live there.
Kelly Gibson, the city’s planning director, said the developer moved forward under direction from her predecessor, who thought the land use designation was a mapping error.