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Jax Daily Record Friday, Sep. 7, 200112:00 PM EST

Vote expected on Beach pier by Sept. 25

by: Mike Sharkey

The rhetoric is winding down and the final address of Jacksonville Beach’s pier could be decided by the end of the month. City Council member Jerry Holland met with Mayor John Delaney and Jacksonville Beach Mayor Bob Marsden Thursday to expedite the process to bring the issue to a vote. Barring any subcommittee delays, Jacksonville City Council will vote on the location as well as funding for construction for the pier at its Sept. 25 meeting.

Delaney and Holland differ on where they think the pier should be. Delaney wants to build a new facility near Fifth Avenue North. Holland wants to leave it at Sixth Avenue South. In addition to believing that the pier — which was destroyed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 —should be rebuilt in its current location, Holland also thinks it should be bigger and better than ever.

A recent trip to Folly Beach, S.C. has added fuel to Holland’s fire; not to mention what he perceives as overwhelming public support from beach folks to leave the pier where it is.

A couple of months ago the Jacksonville Beach City Council voted 5-2 to move the pier from its current Sixth Avenue South location to an area close to Fifth Avenue North — a spot closer to the areas of downtown Jacksonville Beach which are being revitalized. While the vote would seem to indicate that most people support the move, the reality is most of the citizens who spoke at the meeting are opposed to such a move.

“That was a loud minority speaking,” said Holland, adding he has personally heard very little public support for the move. “Where is the quiet majority? I get a few people telling me we should move it north, but many say they want at the south end of the beach. The people spoke out 20 to 1 for keeping it at the south location.”

The Folly Beach trip helped further convince Holland that the pier should be rebuilt in its current location. For approximately $2.4 million, the City can build a brand new pier at Fifth Avenue North. However, there won’t be much to that pier.

For the same amount of money, the City can duplicate what’s in Folly Beach while making the pier a fishermen-friendly 1,200 feet long.

“The Folly Beach pier has a 2,500 square foot restaurant, a gift shop, plenty of parking and areas for people to have picnics,” said Holland. “You can do a Folly Beach-like pier at the south end with the amenities that you can’t do at the north end. It would be closer to the Folly Beach pier than the north end could ever be.”

Currently if the pier remains at its present location, $810,000 will be available to rehabilitate the structure. If the pier is moved north, an additional $1.5 million will be added to the cost to build it from scratch. Holland plans to amend the the City Council bill to keep the pier at the present location as well as use the extra money to make the pier closer to Folly Beach’s facility.

“My thoughts are, if you’re really excited about the Folly Beach pier, make the south location nicer,” he said.

In addition to convincing Delaney to change his mind, Holland is also under a bit of a time crunch. Although he is in the middle of his first term as a representative of the beaches, two factors may conspire to end his reign as the District 3 representative: redistricting and the 2003 election.

Under the current redistricting plan, Holland will have to move east in order to represent the beaches should he seek reelection in 2003. Should he opt to stay put west of the beaches, where he currently lives, he would forfeit that representation.

To his credit, Holland’s focus is on the pier and forcing a decision rather than seeking votes or calling U-Haul.

“Regardless of redistricting, the real problem is that I don’t take on tasks and not finish them,” he said. “I want to get it wrapped up. And, I think I’m finally hearing that out of the administration.”

When the City Council votes, though, Holland is sure of one thing: he’s seen the prototype in Folly Beach and he wants to improve on what he saw.

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