Official Statement from the Board of County Commissioners
For almost a decade, the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners has worked with Raydient Places + Properties (the current name for Rayonier Inc.’s development subsidiary) in a public-private partnership to create an approximate 24,000 acre sector plan (commonly known as the ENCPA) centrally located in Nassau County. This support has included, but not limited to, adopting a master land use plan, obtaining state approval of the sector plan, working on solutions for public roads, such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and mobility fees, and supporting the creation of the East Nassau Stewardship District through local legislation (HB 1075 approved last year). Unfortunately, the county was recently alerted that Raydient (through a large business agency named Associated Industries of Florida headquartered in Tallahassee), unilaterally filed an amendment to Senate Bill 324 and House Bill 697 on January 26th, 2018 that provides Raydient a way out of their commitments to fund public facilities as was agreed upon in HB 1075.
During many public meetings to establish the East Nassau Stewardship District, Raydient provided documents and ensured the Board (as well as the public) that the growth would not burden taxpayers outside of the development because the Stewardship District would be the funding mechanism to deliver public infrastructure and facilities inside the ENCPA as jointly determined between both members of the public-private partnership, Nassau County and Raydient. The Board of County Commissioners as well as Senator Aaron Bean and Representative Cord Byrd supported the local bill (HB 1075) and it was approved as agreed upon by the County and Raydient.
House Bill 1075 (152 pages) that created the East Nassau Stewardship District states (in part):
“The existence and use of such a special and limited special purpose local government for the East Nassau Stewardship District lands…provide for the adequate mitigation of impacts and development of infrastructure in an orderly and timely manner; prevent the overburdening of the local general purpose government and the taxpayers…”
[the special powers of the District include…] “To provide public parks and public facilities for indoor and outdoor recreational, cultural, and educational uses.”
Now, a year later, the general bill amendment introduced by Raydient directly contradicts the local bill and states:
“…a local government may not include or impose as a development order condition a requirement that a developer contribute or pay for land acquisition or construction or expansion of public facilities, or portions thereof, unless the local government has enacted a local ordinance that requires developers of other developments not within a sector planning area to contribute a proportionate share of the funds, land, or public facilities necessary to accommodate any impacts having a rational nexus to the proposed development.”
As noted above, Raydient’s ENCPA development is a Sector Plan (the only one in Nassau County), and as such, has inherent benefits greater than normal developments. This includes the establishment of a public-private partnership whereby parties work together and develop long-term plans to address regional issues. The amendment language above attempts to negate this notion and calls for uniformity among developments. However, there are stark differences in the needs and planning of a 24,000 acre development as compared to a typical subdivision. Raydient is willing to accept the benefits to the private side of the partnership (such as the establishment of the 12% tax increment and mobility fees mentioned in the first paragraph) but no longer wants to work with the board to provide the benefits to the public as previously agreed.
The Board has attempted to work through the differences but have been unsuccessful in getting all parties to the table. An email was sent to Raydient and Stewardship Officials on December 21, 2017, asking for dates and times a public workshop could be held. February 12, 2018 at 4:00pm was mutually agreed upon and the meeting was set. Not a single representative from Raydient or the East Nassau Stewardship District attended. A few days later, the County was made aware of Raydient’s amendment to the State bills which were filed on January 26th, 2018. The Board set a second meeting for February 16th and extended an invitation to Raydient and the East Nassau Stewardship to discuss the amendment and the issues at hand. Once again, neither Raydient nor Stewardship representatives attended the meeting.
Raydient’s amendment is a back-door attempt to renege on the commitments promised by Raydient to the Board and citizens as outlined in the approved Stewardship District bill. This dispute does not belong in Tallahassee or in a statewide general bill and should be settled here in Nassau County, by both parties coming to the table and working towards a solution. All County Commissioners, management and key staff have fought this week to prevent Raydient’s amendment from being adopted in the finalized bills. Senator Bean has filed an amendment to the Senate bill that strikes the language added by Raydient and restores the bill back to the original contents and intent. The Senate will be voting on this amendment on Tuesday, February 27, 2018. The Board of County Commissioners will continue its effort next week to support Senator Bean’s amendment. A special thank you to Senator Bean and Representative Byrd for their tremendous help and joint effort to protect the approximate 81,000 taxpayers of Nassau County.
-Nassau County Board of County Commissioners