A look at Fernandina: Is it too difficult to build or live there?

Maybe Fernandina Beach needs an Eye on them? From the looks of some “Stinky” building department activities, we just might need to expand!

Jack Knocke, founder of Common Sense Fernandina Beach, shared his frustration with Eye on Jacksonville about the City of Fernandina Beach, his hometown.

Jack, a business consultant, moved to the island with plans to retire there one day. He enjoys its many natural habitats and also sees that a vision for enhancing the islands beauty is daunting.

Over the last several months, he has heard many war stories about experiences with the building department.  Most of them concluded with “they made it very hard to work with them” and “the costs seemed unreasonably high”. 

A second alarming response is from businesses and builders who work in both the city and the county.  100% of them relate that it is so much easier working with the county.  “The county is much more responsive”.  “The county is a pleasure to deal with”.  “Permits and fees in the county are half or less than what the city charges”. 

The most alarming response is businesses and homeowners are leaving the city because of the taxes, fees and unfriendly business environment.  As Jack said, “This is shameful and will only hurt the city in the long run. Stagnation of a city is a death knell.”

The building department is charged with ensuring that construction projects comply with the Florida Building Codes. The same building codes apply in the city and the county.   Enforcement of the building codes is on steroids in the city compared with the county.  The Building Department director admittedly drives the city (and the county) looking for any potential violation including alerting to a toilet or water heater on the side of the road seeking to confirm that the resident “has a permit”.  (He really takes his “enforcement” job seriously!)

The first line of the city’s building department web site states “Code Enforcement is primarily a complaint-driven process, based on complaints received from a concerned person.”  It appears the city is out looking for complaints instead of assisting builders and homeowners to get the job done right and on time.

The local Chamber of Commerce has received so many calls about the building department that they created a survey to capture feedback. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ProjectExperienceSurvey2021

A recommendation was presented in a News Leader article this week suggesting that the County manage the building department functions for the city to provide better customer service and reduce costs. 

Jack has asked his followers to write the City Commissioners and share your thoughts on this matter.  Click this link to send an email to the Fernandina Beach Commissioners.

As we guessed — if you take your Eye off your city leaders, some of them abuse their power and forget who they work for. They need to be reminded periodically that they work for you, the taxpayers. Public Service needs to return to the good old days of serving the public instead of you fearing the politicians and bureaucrats.

It’s doesn’t have to be this hard, friends. All it takes is a little give and take and our cities will all function much better. Imagine if you will, just simply enjoying the pursuit of happiness in our hometowns without fighting bureaucracy and negative ninnies in city government.

It can happen. It starts with you engaging in your city government and keeping an Eye on them.

Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives


Eye’s team is having a doggone good time keeping you informed of the issues of the day. Send us your stories and we’ll sniff them out!

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