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Update on Citizens v. Riverstone & Nassau County

March 1, 2024

 

 

On April 23, 2023 Nassau County Commissioners Martin, Huppman, Gray and Farmer agreed to give Riverstone the green light to build eleven condominium towers, at least 85 feet high, next to the state park at the south end of Amelia Island.  They also gave Riverstone $250,000 from the county and a long list of valuable concessions such as narrow setbacks, the right to erect electric billboards on A1A, immunity from future tree ordinances, etc.

 

The following week Citizens against Runaway Development (CARD) incorporated and filed suit against the county to block the agreement.  CARD was joined in its suit by the Amelia Tree Conservancy and the adjacent homeowners’ association, Sanctuary Property Owners’ Association.  The county then asked Riverstone to team with it, against the citizen groups.

 

At a hearing last week, CARD was dismissed as a plaintiff in the suit, because it did not incorporate until after the county and Riverstone the signed their agreement on April 23, 2023.

 

What is the effect of this ruling?   It will have no meaningful impact on the litigation going forward.  The suit against the county and Riverstone will continue with Amelia Tree Conservancy and the adjacent homeowner’s association as plaintiffs, and Gray Robinson continuing to serve as legal counsel.

 

Does CARD plan to appeal this ruling?  No.  The ruling does not adversely affect the citizens’ case going forward.  An appeal would only result in additional legal fees and delays.

 

What happens next?  We are working toward securing a final hearing or trial on the settlement agreement sometime this spring or summer.  At that time, we expect the court to significantly modify the agreement or toss it completely.  However, the timing of this matter is not entirely in our hands.

 

What happens to the money donated to CARD?  By the end of 2023 more than 170 families and individuals had donated to CARD.  More than a third of those were for $1,000 or more. Those funds have been, and will be, spent to carry out the extended litigation with Riverstone and our county. 

Where can I donate to help the battle?  Since it will no longer be a plaintiff, CARD has decided to stop accepting donations for this particular matter.  However, the Amelia Tree Conservancy continues to maintain a segregated fund for tax deductible donations to the Riverstone/Nassau County litigation.  Contributions can be made through the website, at www.ameliatreeconservancy.org and designated for the Riverstone litigation.

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Nearly 500 people have visited the CARD website at www.cardamelia.org and added their names to our mailing list. Many of these are the same folks who have been attending standing-room-only commission meetings for several years now, speaking out against the Riverstone towers and writing to their county commissioners.

 

We will keep you informed of developments as they occur.  Your County Attorney and the commissioners supporting Riverstone will not.

 

Thank you for your support.

 “Corky” Hoffman, President of CARD

Lyn Pannone, President of Amelia Tree Conservancy

Riverstone Development

A Plan for Community Action

The Current Situation:

As you know, the County Commissioners voted 4:1 Monday night, April 24, to surrender completely to Riverstone. Many citizens turned out and spoke passionately about the need to resist the Riverstone development.  Not a single community voice was heard in support of the proposed settlement.

It was particularly disappointing that the commissioners did not respond to the unanimous outpouring of views from their constituents.  At the end of the session, Commissioner Huppman appeared to read from a written statement. Then, and without further comment, four commissioners voted as a block to raise the white flag. We are particularly grateful to Commissioner Allyson McCullough who dissented from the majority.

The County Attorney, Denise May, has proven unable to defend the county against baseless lawsuits from Riverstone.  She has also demonstrated at least twice now that she is also unable to negotiate anything approaching a reasonable settlement on behalf of county residents.  That was pointed out by several speakers Monday night.  Unfortunately, some of the commissioners continue to look to her for advice and guidance. 

The outpouring of resentment since the meeting ended has been palpable.  Overwhelmingly, the citizens of Nassau County find the actions of its commissioners to be entirely unacceptable.

Riverstone has been granted everything it requested, plus a quarter million dollars of taxpayer money.  Today Riverstone is free to submit its plans for clearing the land and building towers on the south end of our island.  It has all the green lights necessary to proceed rapidly with development.

Next Steps:

In response, we have incorporated Citizens Against Runaway Development (CARD) as a vehicle to oppose the Riverstone development in its current form on behalf of Nassau County residents.  This entity is intended to coordinate and represent the actions of concerned citizens.  We expect to do this by:

  • Soliciting the views of people concerned about the Riverstone development.

  • Retaining experienced land use and litigation counsel to provide objective advice regarding possible actions to be taken.

  • Initiating legal action, as necessary and appropriate.

  • Keeping the citizens of Nassau County informed of developments as they occur.

  • Working with the county and Riverstone toward a resolution satisfactory to the citizens.

How You Can Help:

Assuming that legal action will be necessary in the next year to stop Riverstone, we anticipate a need for approximately $125,000.   Of that, we have already received pledges for $60,000.  We need your help to fill the remaining gap.

Please make your donation to Citizens Against Runaway Development at:

P.O. Box 16360

Fernandina, FL  32035

 

Any funds remaining upon final resolution of the Riverstone matter will be used toward land conservation, tree replacement and conservation efforts elsewhere in Nassau County.

 

You can reach us through our website at www.CARDAmelia.org.  We welcome your ideas and input. Keeping you updated as developments unfold will be a priority. 

 

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you.  Thank you for your help.

 

Sincerely,

 

Creighton (“Corky”) Hoffman (Corky@CARDAmelia.org)

Lyn Pannone (Lyn@CARDAmelia.org)

Cameron Moss (Cameron@CARDAmelia.org)

Tony Smeraglinolo (Tony@CARDAmelia.org)

 

April 27, 2023

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