Fernandina Beach sign ordinance idea could spark stricter Nassau County rule
Image via the city of Fernandina Beach.

fernandina beach historic district cofb
City Commissioner Bradley Bean intends to bring up the topic at the next joint city-county meeting.

Fernandina Beach, like a lot of other historic beach towns, has stricter ordinances on signs and other real estate aesthetics that aren’t worth the bother for a lot of inland and larger cities. An attempt to open up those regulations on some city businesses may have the effect of tightening them on businesses throughout Nassau County.

“The City Commission is also responsible for fulfilling the city’s obligation to its residents and tourists to maintain a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment where signs do not create excessive visual clutter and distraction or hazards for pedestrians and vehicles,” according to the sign ordinance’s purpose and intent, “where signs do not adversely impact the residential, coastal or historic character of the city and where signs do not conflict with the natural and scenic qualities of the city.”

City Commissioner Bradley Bean wants to do something about opening up those regulations.

“This was brought to my attention by several different local businesses in the city that are put at a competitive disadvantage due to our sign ordinance,” Bean said at this week’s Commission workshop. “I want to bring that to our attention, just to look at it. What I’m talking about, you might picture them as the Under Armour flags. We have a city ordinance that restricts the number of flags you’re allowed to have on any parcel to one flag per parcel.”

The Commission, the ordinance states, has to provide uniform sign criteria that‘s compatible to the city’s character and scale, while placing the fewest burdens on personal liberties and property rights, while creating a safe and attractive environment without excessive clutter and distraction in the surrounding environment and neighborhoods.

“I would actually agree with this ordinance — that it makes sense for the vast majority of the city,” Bean said. “However, in the case of these businesses that are on the border, and we all know our city has some long borders because it’s so oddly shaped. It curves – it goes down 14th (Street), it comes back. 

“What that means is we end up in a situation where there are several different businesses, and that’s who approached me on this, these businesses are put into a position where they are across the street from an almost identical business … they are not allowed to have these flags on their property, but their competition in the county is.” 

These flags are a big help in driving walk-in business from visitors, he said.

Commissioner Chip Ross took Bean’s idea and went in a different direction, suggesting the city should put pressure on Nassau County to develop a stricter county sign ordinance to bring the rest of the county under the standard set by Fernandina Beach.

“Back in 2005 there was a blue-ribbon committee, they spent hours and hours and hours, came up with all these recommendations for signs, and I don’t really see any reason to change it,” Ross said. “Maybe we can get the county to change their ordinance.”

Commissioner David Sturges agreed with Ross that the 2005 committee did the job it was supposed to do, and if it’s such an issue, maybe the businesses just outside of the city limits should come in through annexation. The point on talking to the county also drew support from Vice Mayor Len Kreger.

“We should be talking to the county, for whatever that means, to look at it,” Kreger said, “and I’m not opposed to looking at other options, either.”

Bean intends to bring up the topic at the next joint city-county meeting, and said he’s open to various ways of working on the problem to satisfy the businesses’ demands without negatively impacting the look and feel of the city.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Lednovich instructed City Manager Dale Martin to bring up the issue with County Manager Taco Pope in their next scheduled weekly conversation and discuss what the county’s next steps might be.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


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