Buried in the Shorelines community news on jacksonville.com is this story:
MAYPORT – Opponents of a proposed cruise ship terminal not only put a hold on the plans this week with Florida Sunshine Law challenges, they’re also challenging Jacksonville Port Authority figures that say the terminal would have a positive economic impact.
“There’s been a huge economic impact since Jacksonville has owned the property along the waterfront,” said Michelle Baldwin, president of the Mayport Village Civic Association, which has sued to stop the terminal. It’s a negative impact, she said.
The JPA purchased about 8 acres on the waterfront in June. Baldwin, who represents about 70 Mayport property owners, said the negative impact since then includes moving about 20 shrimp boats from their docks, moving a net-rigging shop to Yulee and closing the Mayport Tavern.
“There’s been an impact to the morale of the village and the way we have lived life down here for approximately the past 200 years as a fishing village,” Baldwin said.
The negatives contrast a University of North Florida study paid for and released by the JPA last month that said a terminal in Mayport could have a $500-million impact on the area’s economy in the first six years of operation.
The study also concluded that a terminal at Mayport instead of its current location west of the Dames Point Bridge would have an economic impact on five Northeast Florida counties. In addition, the study says the terminal would create about 5,000 jobs on cruise ships and in service industry businesses.
But Baldwin said the study overlooks the negatives, and Warren Anderson, an attorney with the Florida Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute, which is helping represent the association, said the JPA is refusing to release details on how the UNF study was conducted.
“We’re frustrated because we haven’t had a chance to look at the report and evaluate it with their own economist,” Anderson said.
The Civic Association is also amending its lawsuit to include charges that Jacksonville and the JPA violated the Sunshine Law. Anderson said the amendment is based on the JPA’s 2007 acquisition of the Mayport ferry from Jacksonville. When the JPA got the ferry, it also acquired land near the ferry slips and nearby property at Hornblower Marine, the company that oversees ferry operations.
Anderson said neither the JPA nor City Council informed the public about 3 other acres of “surplus” land east of Ocean Street and that that’s a violation of the Florida Sunshine Law. The city owned the 3 acres prior to the JPA’s ferry acquisition.
“What the evidence will show, we think, is that the Sunshine Law requires that notices be given,” Anderson said. “The Port Authority decided to take over the ferry, which was good news for all of us. Except that we found out that as a condition of taking over the ferry, the Port Authority arranged to take a number of other properties at Mayport unrelated to the ferry.
“Our complaint is that the citizens of Mayport village were not told that there were other properties being given to the Port Authority unrelated to the ferry, which would then later allow the Port Authority these additional properties so they could put a cruise terminal in the area,” said Anderson.
The amendment caused the Jacksonville City Council to postpone any votes on proposed zoning changes to accommodate the proposed terminal.
Kerri Stewart, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer, said in 2007 when the land was transferred that there wasn’t official discussion about building a terminal in Mayport but the possibility was known.
“It was not a secret that they were looking for alternative sites for a cruise terminal,” she said, “but that’s not the reason we conveyed the land.”
The city wanted to help compensate for the financial losses the Port Authority would likely incur, Stewart said. The ferry was operating at an annual deficit of $750,000 to $1 million.