Hatchery Headache: It does not comply with city code or comp plan

The City of Pensacola and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission may have bigger issues with their fish hatchery than the standing of the citizens who sued to stop the construction on Bruce Beach.

When the attorneys for the city in January made the motion to dismiss the Lindemann-Holzman lawsuit, they argued that the notice requirements in Section 163.80(3), Florida Statutes, did not apply to properties acquired before the creation of a community redevelopment area.

That was CRA Director Helen Gibson tried to tell Councilwoman Sheri Myers in an email last October, “The CRA has never been a party to the Fish Hatchery lease. The property was purchased by the City of Pensacola in 1974, and no CRA funds were ever allocated to it. The CRA statutes do not apply.”

According to attorney Robert Emmanuel, who represented Lindemann and Holzworth, the city withdrew that argument because it wouldn’t hold up. Instead, they fought the lawsuit on the basis of lack of standing.

And while Judge Boles did rule in favor of the city and dismissed the lawsuit, Emmanuel believes a bigger issue is the hatchery doesn’t comply with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, Development Code and Community Redevelopment Agency Plan.

He shared with Inweekly documents that show Bruce Beach was included in the 1980 resolutions that established the CRA district, so removed any doubts whether the CRA plan applies to the property, according to Emmanuel. The Community Redevelopment Plan was updated in 2010. The plan showed Bruce Beach was in the redevelopment land use category (p. 22). Bruce Beach was one of five “Redevelopment Demonstration Sites.”

Some have argued that fish hatchery complies with the CRA plan. It does not. The plan called for the 44.5 acres to be bisected by the extending Cedar Street to S. Clubbs Street. Cedar Street runs from the Community Maritime Park between Baskerville Donovan and Nicks’ Boathouse. (Note: The road in the drawing above shows the extension Cedar Street.)

South of Cedar Street would be “an interactive educational nature park” and a boardwalk that would connect to CMP (page 40). The FWC hatchery plan has an optional pedestrian bridge. The hatchery will be have a marine educational component but no nature park.

The northern portion would be for commercial and residential development that could be in conjunction with the redevelopment of the ECUA site (page 41). One of the goals would to create a West Gateway along Main Street (page 44). The redevelopment concept presented for the northern section between Cedar and Main streets called for high density mixed-use development (page 58-59).

Volume Two of the CRA plan stated the development strategy had five key components: Residential, Retail, Office and Tourism, Arts and Entertainment (page 4). Nothing about industrial uses, which is what a hatchery is.

The plan states the CRA/City would market Bruce Beach and other redevelopment parcels to “national and international developers that have an established portfolio of medium and high density mixed-use experience in urban markets” (page 26).

According to city ordinances and comprehensive plan, Bruce Beach is in the Waterfront Redevelopment District that allows for residential, retail and commercial but not industrial (City Ordinances Sec. 12-2-12. – Redevelopment land use district).

Uses permitted:

  • Single-family residential
  • Multi-family residential at a maximum density of 60 units per acre
  • Home occupations
  • Offices
  • Libraries and community centers
  • Hotels, motels
  • Marinas
  • Parking garages
  • Retail
  • Family day care homes.

Emmanuel pointed out that the City and FWC have a problem because their lease agreement says the hatchery must comply with “Waterfront Redevelopment District in the City’s land development code” (Section 3 of lease).

The FWC will need to show the Pensacola City Council how its development complies with the code and CRA plan. It hasn’t yet.

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8 thoughts on “Hatchery Headache: It does not comply with city code or comp plan

  1. Put it in Century, near the Escambia River in the destroyed Old Sawmill acreage (If the Freshwater would work) Suggestion

  2. The legal definition of Public use:
    public use
    n. the only purpose for which private property can be taken (condemned) by the government under its power of eminent domain. Public use includes: schools, streets, highways, hospitals, government buildings, parks, water reservoirs, flood control, slum clearance and redevelopment, public housing, public theaters and stadiums, safety facilities, harbors, bridges, railroads, airports, terminals, prisons, jails, public utilities, canals, and numerous other purposes designated as beneficial to the public.

  3. The regulations of both the Land Development Code and the Comprehensive Plan apply to all development. The City doesn’t get to pick and choose which rules they want to apply. The Comp Plan clearly establishes what is allowed on the site. It is the more restrictive and the over-arching regulation in play here. Even in the case of conflicting regulation between the Comp Plan and the LDC, the more restrictive language is what would apply but there isn’t even conflicting regulation on this issue because a hatchery is not a public purpose. It is an industrial production facility.

  4. Fish Sticks,
    An Industrial Fish Hatchery is not a public purpose. Public purpose includes parks, libraries, community centers, courthouses, and administration buildings –especially when taken in the context of the 2010 CRA Plan and the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

  5. In response to CJ’s comments, as a URAC member I do recall the hatchery proposal was being discussed by Council at some point during the tenure of our Committee. But the issue was never brought to us for any feedback or consideration. It was a new proposal, and at the time I really didn’t think it would go anywhere and didn’t take it that seriously. And the Council had not yet officially endorsed it. While the URAC never formally considered the issue, I do recall one of us mentioning it during some small chatter as we were sitting down for a meeting and I said it was a bad idea and others just made faces of disapproval for the project. As you said, in our report we recommended Bruce Beach as an improved open space where the public could access the Bay.

  6. Mr. Lewis continues to confuse this issue with hard facts. And as a resident of Pensacola, I am sorry to see those holding office continue to ignore him.

  7. Rick,

    It seems you left off some important language from the City Ordinance you cited. In (City Ordinances Sec. 12-2-12) under uses permitted it ACTUALLY says for part D:

    Libraries and community centers opened to the public AND BUILDINGS USED EXCLUSIVELY BY THE FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY AND CITY GOVERNMENT FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES.

    Makes one wonder why you left that part off. Was it intentional?

  8. The City Council did vote in almost giddy haste and under great pressure in 2011 to give the Mayor the authority to enter into negotiations with the FWC. They did so in a manner openly intended to ensure that there was little to no public input. Only Councilwoman Megan Pratt was upset about effectively cutting the public out of the process. In my view, the current City Council should vote to repeal its 2011 action stripping Mayor Ashton Hayward of all authority with respect to this matter. As for the contract itself, the City Council can end this matter for sure by voting to find that FWC failed to commence construction on the date provided by the contract and so the contract is VOID, as it says right in the contract. The decision as to whether to enforce the contract is vested in the City Council as the governing authority of the City, not in the Mayor who as with the City Manager he replaced does the bidding of the City Council. In my view, there is nothing the Mayor could do to stop either legislative action. Taking those two legislative actions is the easy way forward to get out of this mess. Any two City Council members can tonight call for a special meeting to be held next week to end this misery. If that is not done, the easy approach, there are many political and legal minefields ahead as described above in the Rick’s Blog post. My view from the start has been that the disposition of Bruce Beach is a matter delegated by “resolution” (a state law procedure) to the Pensacola Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). As such, the City Council had no authority to empower the Mayor to enter into negotiations and no power to approve a contract with FWC except if the CRA has give it that authority. It did not. In fact, I do not recall the CRA ever casting any votes about the Fish Hatchery deal. If there is any confusion about whether the resolution is enforceable, and Hayward claims that his election empowered him to ignore those ordinances and resolutions he does not like, then the City Council should direct the City Attorney to seek an Advisory Legal Opinion from the Florida Attorney General. There is a state law nexus because the City Council’s authority to adopt “resolutions” comes from Section 166.041, Florida Statutes. I believe that Hayward unlawfully fired “CRA Executive Director” Thaddeus Cohen in 2011 to get him out of the way, to “clear the decks,” so Hayward could pull an end run on the CRA with respect to the disposition of Bruce Beach. State law vests the power to hire CRA staff in the CRA not a Mayor or City Manager. When Cohen was fired, the CRA had not yet give Hayward the power to hire and fire its staff, in violation of state law as City Attorney Lysia Bowling once told me in July 2016. I remain surprised that no one has contacted Cohen or done a public records search to verify that Hayward’s termination of Cohen was tied to Bruce Beach. Lastly, Bruce Beach is located within the boundaries of one of the CRA’s three Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, specifically the “Urban Core Community Redevelopment Area” south of Cervantes Street between “A” Street and 17th Avenue. The recent court ruling that CRA property owners have no equity in decisions made in the CRA does call into question its continued existence. In 2011, the CRA authorized Hayward to appoint an Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee (URAC). A copy of the URAC’s Final Report is at this link: https://www.Cityofpensacola.com/DocumentCenter/View/1184 “Bruce Beach” is mentioned several times in great detail on pages 42-44 and on page 76. The URAC made no mention of any industrial uses atop Bruce Beach. I believe the CRA should ask the URAC members to testify as to why they did not recommend putting a fish hatchery at Bruce Beach. They must have had a reason for never mentioning a fish hatchery.

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