Fernandina Beach could lose park to airport development

ybor alverez park cofb
Once built, the project’s expected to bring in around $80K a year.

It’s not quite paving paradise to put up a parking lot, but it’s not far off.

A Fernandina Beach park and its recreation fields were never officially established, and a proposal exists to take the park and turn it into more airport — namely, new hangars with “man caves.” 

However, city staff members suggest that adding a recreational outdoor use to industrial rezoning of Ybor Alvarez Athletic Complex “would allow for continued recreational use of airport property. Since only airport property is zoned as I-A, the city/airport would control the type of recreational use to ensure that any future recreational use proposals, which would require ground lease, are a compatible land use.”

This way, regardless of the hangar proposal, the park could exist in this official way that complies with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. Fortunately, or not, for Fernandina Beach, the FAA was unaware of this zoning issue as of this week, according to Airport Director Nathan Coyle.

“What staff found was, (the park) was never actually formally zoned for recreational,” Coyle said to the city Aviation Advisory Commission.

“There was no ordinance that it actually happened, other than, at some point, it got drawn on there as recreational. The challenge with recreational zoning is, there’s no allowance for aviation use in there. So, you’re precluding the aviation use out there and you’re actually violating the assurances and obligation of the property.”

The hangar proposal is supposed to include 30 nested hangars, along with “a mix of storage units for automobiles, recreational vehicles and boats on airport land.” The plan presented in October included 15 enclosed climate-controlled units for RVs or boats, 20 covered RV/boat canopy spots with electric hookups, nine 4,000 square feet “large toy boxes,” and an RV/boat wash and dump station.

The larger climate-controlled units were presented as the aforementioned man caves, the interior of which may contain an optional mezzanine.

Once built, the project’s expected to bring in around $80,000 a year.

“We know from the county’s vulnerability study that as a barrier island in our situation, we are vulnerable to storm surge, to flooding, to sea-level rise and all of that,” said Margaret Kirkland, longtime leader of the Amelia Tree Conservancy. “We know in this particular area, there’s been a lot of tree canopy removed, and that does process — naturally process — stormwater.”

The groundwater isn’t far underground in the area, she added, noting the frequency of canceled games at the park.

“We don’t oppose the use of the airport to grow the local economy,” resident James Harkins said. “I think it’s good for the local economy. I’m entirely in support of that. What I’m against is the introduction of luxury storage space for what was made clear for wealthy people who have considerably expensive toys, who are able to trick these units out with poker tables, big-screen TVs, etc.”

The optics of converting ballfields to luxury storage aren’t great for all involved, he said. 

The Airport Advisory Commission unanimously agreed to the zoning change, bringing it into compliance with federal rules. The future of the hangar development remains very much up in the air.

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


  • tom palmer

    December 12, 2022 at 6:51 pm

    Good thing Nassau County voters approved an environmental lands referendum this year even though it received little coverage,, Maybe parts of the county elsewhere will be protected.

  • Fighting for Fernandina.

    December 13, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    Why would anyone consider giving up recreational acreage for storage???? Does that make good sense for the community! As a property owner on the island I would much prefer seeing the kids playing to airport hangars. Can’t believe any commission or Mayor would approve that change.

  • Brian Crane

    December 15, 2022 at 10:46 am

    Wow, what a scumbag move by “city staff members”… this complex is used by 1000s of kids and adults every week with no real alternative on the island.
    Hopefully this come to a vote and we squash it, what an awful idea, and what a waste of money for the lights they finally received not too long ago.
    It’s getting less and less attractive to live on the island, I’m sure the greenway is next. sigh…

Comments are closed.


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