Let’s Make Fernandina Beach’s Bullies on the Bully Pulpit Accountable for Rude, Rogue Behavior That’s an Abuse of Power

Fernandina Beach is known as “The Isle of Eight Flags” because of all of the entities whose flags have flown over the place during its long and storied history: But today, Fernandina Beach is in danger of becoming better known as “Bully Town” — where a bright future is being hijacked and jeopardized by two rogue, out-of-control city commissioners whose self-aggrandizement and dictator-like grandstanding have made them bullies on the bully pulpit.

Smart growth is important for any good community that values balancing the equities for enhancing its economy while also protecting its resources and quality of life. But an exciting new project that promises to do just that — promote a stronger economy while also respecting the community’s beautiful heritage — is being unfairly attacked and sabotaged by the two maverick elected officials who have placed their own penchant for abusing power over the real public interest.

According to numbers shared by the Fernandina Beach City Manager, the city is stuck with two white elephants: the city-owned golf course and the marina. Together, these two financial losers are projected to drain about $1.4 million from local taxpayer coffers annually. As everyone in Fernandina now knows, property taxes are expected to grow in part to make up that shortfall.

So, citizens here should be asking themselves how any city commissioner could say, “no” to a potentially game-changing clean, positive new development before it’s even been presented — especially when it can lessen the financial burden likely to otherwise fall on taxpayers. The often-inaccurate, untrue narrative and politically motivated cheap shots that Mike Lednovich and Chip Ross keep piling on this new project reflect a level of irresponsibility rarely seen in northeast Florida local government. It’s a betrayal of the public trust delivered in a negative and destructive pattern that should cause voters and taxpayers to wonder how or why they ever entrusted any power at all to these two guys.

Let’s set the record straight and illuminate the public landscape that has been so clouded by the Lednovich/Ross attack bombs. We can do that simply by relying on something the two bad-boy commissioners have failed to do: share the facts and the truth. Plans for an auto-centric community on what is now the Amelia River Golf Club represent such an exciting opportunity for Amelia Island and the city of Fernandina Beach.

In a recent interview with local media, developers Steve Leggett and Bill Riddell, who lives in Fernandina, presented positive details from a dramatically scaled-down version of the plan they unveiled in June. Their updated effort reflects a real sensitivity to what they’ve learned by listening to the community. Still, this new plan has been met with rude and wrong dismissal by the Lednovich and Ross — though they have yet to see this measurably improved and updated plan. How irresponsible is that? Totally, is the answer.
For these bully commissioners, it doesn’t matter that the developers have spent the months since their June presentation working to address the concerns of residents and community leaders. It doesn’t matter to the rogue duo of electeds that developers have eliminated concerns about any noise, including the fact that there will be no racing whatsoever at the site. And, it doesn’t matter to Lednovich/Ross that 70 percent of the property will be green space and they’ll be planting way-more trees than are lost. Finally, it doesn’t matter to the bullies that the project eliminates the traffic associated with the 30,000 rounds of golf played there now or that it will use just the one existing entrance to the golf course.

None of this matters, apparently, because these two arrogant commissioners shallowly believe they know better than everyone else. They know so much, in fact, that they don’t even need to see the plans before they oppose them. And, ultimately, these two commissioners seem to believe that raising taxes is better than attracting businesses, tourists and private-sector investment and revenue.

Back in June, the plans Leggett and Riddell presented to the city commission were met with outspoken opposition. So, what did they do? They took the parts of their plan that were concerning residents and they directly addressed them. In short, they acted responsibly and respectfully and took action to measurably compromise their project to ensure harmony between their plan and the community.

I don’t think it’s too much to expect city commissioners to comport themselves similarly — responsibly and respectfully. They were, after all, elected to represent the people of this community and to work a public-interest agenda, not a personal agenda fueled by bloated egos.

Instead, Lednovich has held court on Facebook — giving life to seemingly every misrepresentation and unfounded rumor by hitching his sagging credibility to the negative narrative. And, his public sector accomplice-in-slime, Ross, has been just as brutally wrong and mean spirited in offering his opposition to anyone who will listen. Despite the facts and truth, both of these men consistently insist on calling this a “race track.” That’s not true — and they know it’s not true. So, this big lie only lives because these two bully commissioners are slinging bull, but not truth. Intentionally.

This is disrespectful public officer behavior bordering on malfeasance in office because it defines an abandonment of all principle. It also sends a loud and clear message to entrepreneurs across the country that they should take their business elsewhere — if these two bullies continue to wield their abusive power play to discourage, deter, delay or deny positive progress.

Let’s be clear here: this island is home to a thriving community of auto enthusiasts, including numerous auto clubs. It is also home to one of the world’s pre-eminent auto exhibitions in the Concours d’Elegance. It’s also clear that our city desperately needs the clean revenue that this exciting development would regularly generate. Like any other good citizens, Leggett and Riddell have earned the right to be heard in a fair and open forum.

These respected business leaders have proven they are willing to significantly invest in the community — and, to significantly compromise to get the project on track. After being met with disapproval at a commission meeting back in June, they went back to the drawing board and worked to truly address the legitimate concerns of residents.

Here’s the bottom line, folks. Fernandina Beach has an exciting new project on its horizon that deserves a fair hearing because it represents a bold, good way to forge a clean path to the community’s economic future. If Lednovich/Ross seek to make history by these continued poison political pranks, it is likely to be really bad history that will be their ultimate legacy, built on lies.

It is the job of all city commissioners to keep an open mind and to help ensure the quality of life of the community. But voters and taxpayers should demand these two do their jobs as public servants, rather than act like political thugs. There’s still time for these two guys to save their reputations and political careers by putting the ‘public service’ back in their work rather than keep blindly moving as if ‘self service’ is what they were elected to do.

Ed Dean wrote this column. He can be reached at ed.dean@floridadaily.com.

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. So Ed, how much did Leggett and Warner pay you to write this pack of lies??

    “Plans for an auto-centric community on what is now the Amelia River Golf Club represent such an exciting opportunity for Amelia Island and the city of Fernandina Beach.”

    Only for the few wealthy car enthusiasts who live at the FAR SOUTH end of the island is this “exciting.” For the rest of us who happen to enjoy the sound of the surf, birds, etc (ie: QUIET) and LIVE where we won’t be able to hear ANY of this should this travesty of a plan be carried out, the answer is “NO, we are NOT excited by the prospect.”

    And it’s NOT just the noise and traffic that is at issue here. That is land owned by the city. Meaning by the TAXPAYERS. Right now it’s a golf course that allows any citizen (or noncitizen) use and enjoy it. I have been known to go there just for lunch (well-kept secret: they make a really good tuna wrap. As good as at the Salty. Sit outside with your wrap, fresh brewed ice tea and enjoy the fresh air and a chuckle whilst watching the golfers at the driving range….many of whom are as terrible at the sport as I am). IF this project goes through this will NOT be a place most residents can afford ($150,000 for private garages with man-caves?? Seriously??) No one outside the wealthy will be hanging out and enjoying a scotch and cigar whilst enjoying inhaling exhaust fumes and trying to be heard over the roar of the revving engines. NOT an appropriate use of PUBLICLY owned land.

    Is the city golf course a financial drain? Absolutely. Maybe if you got people in there running it who were FRIENDLY and knowledgeable it would help. Right now, outside the food service people my friends and I avoid the place because of the rude treatment by those running the place.

    As for the marina…difficult to make money when the place has been shut down for 3 years in no small part due to the bureaucracy involved in trying to make upgrades and repairs.

    Suggestion for solving the issue of the two golf courses: shut down one. Since the course at Amelia River is the better of the two, keep that and turn the other one into something else that benefits the MOST people/taxpayers/residents. Walking trails. A disc golf course. Environmental educational center in partnership with UF. Making it a playground for the wealthy car owners who visit once a year is HARDLY a wise investment. And I sincerely doubt there are sufficient car enthusiasts ON the island to sell all those car barns and make anything resembling a profit without running races/trials on the proposed track on a regular basis. This is NOT the place for it. Not now. Not ever.

  2. You obviously know nothing about the sentiments of local reidents. We don’t want or need more greedy, self-serving developers ruining our natural jewel. Whose payroll are you on? Take your nonsense and this project back to Cocoa Beach or whatever hole you crawled out of.

  3. i am disgusted that Florida Daily would allow this kind of vile criticism and mockery of two men who have done so much good for our island!

  4. Factually inaccurate, poorly written, and just downright unkind. Ironically, the one doing the bullying here is you.

  5. this idea for a race course is as inappropriate for our island as the Super Walmart was.

  6. This comes across as a paid marketing piece- let us make something clear – loud and clear- the majority – not all- BUT the majority of tax paying residents in the city limits STRONGLY oppose this test track “development”- Mr Warner is the one who wrote a slightly threatening letter hinting ever so artfully the removal of his event from the island. His event or name was never mentioned before HE wrote the letter. Let’s all remember that. Our city commissioners are voted in by the tax paying residents and therefore should represent the ones that vote them in. Sometimes it’s not just about the money – there are bigger things brewing here. We have developments happening on the island – there are currently 3 hotels being built – all within the city limit – so their point is mute – we are NOT opposed to developments on the island – things are happening – even though we may not always like it- just the WRONG kinds of developments. I for one applaud our city commissioner for his transparency for without him – BACKDOOR deals get rammed through right under our noses – so- BULLY ON commissioners – BULLY ON

  7. No one is going to buy a garage/villa to run their cars on a 2/10’s mile strip. You supporters in Jacksonville must really think Nassau County is filled with idiots.

  8. I think the plan is worth at the VERY least, looking into. This island, in a matter of months has become a mass of hatred of anything “car” or “wealth” related. Perhaps a bird watching center would create more revenue? SMH. Watch your tax bills people. Mismanagement put us in this situation and it’ll only get worse without some critical thinking by the commissioners and the residents. Now that the imbecile FL voters ended Greyhound racing thus eliminating coupling? Perhaps you’d prefer a casino?

    • I’d prefer anything that doesn’t take away from my QUIET enjoyment of the home I’ve invested so much in as well as not diminishing its value. Can you guarantee this income won’t be offset by loss of property tax income when housing values fall? Or do you really believe there are that many car lovers who will flock here to buy our properties within earshot of this?

  9. Your article is a farce. The people of Fernandina have spoken, they do nit want this inappropriate use of the land to move forward. Is this a sponsored content pos? If yes, you shoukd clearly disclose it as such. If nit, you should gather facts before posting nonsense.

  10. Commissioners Ross and Lednovich are supporting the will of the vast majority of Amelia Island residents by opposing this project. We don’t want this development or the traffic, noise and pollution it would engender, especially on city owned land.

    • Another comedian!
      Those two are nothing but mere carpetbaggers!
      Along with most of the other complainers on the island!

  11. Ed-

    You are out of touch with the community. I just built a new home on Amelia for the peace and quite relaxing environment with Live Oaks. I didn’t invest for a race track environment. The selfish people in this are the ones pushing for development against the peoples wishes.

    The newly submitted plan is just a delay while the try to change the representatives in their favor over time.

  12. I could care less one way or the other, this island was destroyed a long time ago with the influx of Yankee carpetbaggers!
    I think it is hypocracy that most of the complainers had NO problem bulldozing “OUR” oak trees to build their houses but now want to complain about the next bulldozer!

  13. Bull shire. You’re arrogance knows no bounds. Our elected officials are not the bullies, you are. The RESIDENTS, the owners of the property, have said NO. What don’t you understand. We know the initial “proposal” was a smoke screen. You don’t create a comprehensive proposal and shop it in a matter of weeks. You need to get your facts straight and stop being Leggetts goat.

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