Commission candidates seek more control over Fernandina Beach development

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'You can’t take what we already have and just shove it aside and not value it and not appreciate it.'

With Fernandina Beach Vice Mayor Len Kreger’s seat coming open, three candidates are facing off for election to the City Commission — Darron Ayscue, President of Nassau County Professional Firefighters Union Local 3101, City Planning Advisory Board member Genece Minshew, who launched her campaign a year ago, and home health care professional Staci McMonagle.

Ayscue continues to lead the fundraising race for Seat 5, pulling in $10,500 to his campaign through September while spending nearly all of it — more than $10,300, nearly $4,000 of which went to Intracoastal Media Group of Jacksonville for video production. 

Minshew, meanwhile, raised around $10,300 since the start of her campaign and spent around $4,755, leaving her with more than $5,500 on hand for the final push. McMonagle has raised close to $3,200, and spent almost $3,100.

The trio gathered for a forum held by the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce in which the county’s development was once again top of the ticket for concerns.

“I talk to a lot of people, I’ve knocked on a lot of doors, and one thing most people are saying is they do not appreciate all the changes that are taking place in Fernandina,” McMonagle said. “So, do we have to have development? Yes we do, but it has to be sensible development, and it has to complement what we’ve already got here.

“You can’t take what we already have and just shove it aside and not value it and not appreciate it. It’s got to be development that complements this old, wonderful, historic, small-town atmosphere that we have. You have people coming in from all over the place just because they’ve lost this, and they’re looking for it again.”

If developers pour concrete over all that, it’s not coming back, she added. Fernandina residents don’t want the city turning into St. Augustine or the featureless beach towns further south.

The city has yet to put design standards into its land development code or comprehensive land use plan, Minshew said, which could provide a defense to such development ideas.

“Even within the historic district, you can build a modern house, because we do not have those design standards,” Minshew said.

Density standards, as well, could be modified by the city’s Planning Advisory Board.

“We’re seeing a lot of in-fill development in the African American community, and that area over around (the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center), where lots are being sold and larger houses are going in,” Minshew said. “That is not something we’ve ever had design standards for, or any kind of neighborhood unit standards for.” 

Ayscue would like to see development swing toward more commercial, rather than residential, work.

“By and large, I would like to see some commercial businesses come in here,” Ayscue said. “I think that’s better — it’s better on the tax base, it’s better all the way around. You bring in businesses, you bring in jobs, you bring in more tourism, and things like that.”

The Commission can take up other development issues one by one as they arise, he said.

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:


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