Nassau residents urge Commissioners reject tower development settlement
Image via Wes Wolfe

amelia island beach south end
'So please, table the motion, give it some time, stand up for our rights as property owners.'

Nassau County Commissioners are still debating how to resolve a case Riverstone Properties filed against the Commission under the Bert Harris Act.

Nearly a year ago with different leaders, Nassau County Commissioners voted 3-2 against settling the case. Riverstone wanted to build 11 towers, with maximum heights of more than 80 feet, next to Amelia Island State Park. Riverstone believes the 45-foot maximum height for that area of the island is a direct attack on the developer and its plans, and is actionable under the act.

A beach access provided in compensation wouldn’t have opened up any new beach to visitors, and was near the south island beach access points a few hundred yards from the north and south ends of the property.

“There’s an enormous number of good citizens, they’re taking their time here on a Monday night to speak with us and hear what we have to say,” former Commission Chairman Aaron Bell said before the vote.

“This is in my Commission district. I do understand the concerns of the folks who live here. I live there. I cannot and will not support the settlement, and my vote will be for option three, where the county tells Riverstone to pound sand and see you in court.”

Indeed, two cases related to the project are in civil circuit court, with another settlement and another vote set for April 24.

The deal isn’t much different than the last one, but with a couple new Commissioners considering the vote and thus far untold legal costs accrued. There’s a small offer to the county of beach access and buffers, but the heart of the deal is 11 seven-story towers that come in under 85 feet tall instead of the county-mandated 45 feet.

The county would also have to pay $250,000 for Riverstone’s legal costs.

As for the upcoming vote, Commissioner Alyson McCullough launched her campaign under the banner of “No More Towers on Amelia Island,” beating former Commissioner Thomas Ford last year. Ford voted for the original Riverstone proposal under the belief the county couldn’t handle a robust Bert Harris Act lawsuit.

Bell, whose campaign was also hamstrung by a DUI arrest, lost his seat to current Commissioner Hupp Huppmann.

Lyn Pannone of the Amelia Tree Conservancy presented Commissioners this week with an outside legal opinion on the matter.

“The reason I’m here to distribute this one is because I wanted to give you an opportunity to, at your leisure, over the weekend or before Monday, to read it,” Pannone said.

“Also here, the attorney prepared seven bullet points as to why the proposed settlement agreement violates Florida law and the Bert Harris Act. In the conclusion of the legal opinion, and this is a quote from our attorneys, ‘In our opinion, Riverstone’s notice of claim should be viewed as a Hail Mary attempt by a property owner looking to cash in on hypothetical development possibilities at Nassau County’s expense.’”

Frank Bennett, a resident on the south end of Amelia Island, told Commissioners that seeking a second opinion in his cancer treatment made all the difference, and they should look beyond the one group of retained lawyers with whom they’ve consulted.

“You can settle any time you want,” Bennett said. “You can settle in September. You can settle in December. What you’re being told is incorrect, if (settle now) is in fact what you’re being told. So please, table the motion, give it some time, stand up for our rights as property owners.”

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:

One comment

  • David T. Hawkins

    April 21, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    If the county-mandate is 45 feet and want suing to build 11 Towers that are well OVER that, then WHY would the county have to pay $250,000 for Riverstone’s legal costs? This makes no sense at all.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn