This evening we might get a better idea of why the group "Save Pensacola Beach" refuses to back down on their demand for a ballot vote for or against fee simple ownership for those who wish to own their leaseholds on Pensacola Beach. Their initial attack on the Fee Simple bill (initially introduced and endorsed by both of our Senators and our Congressman) was based on speculation that allowing leaseholders to own their property would result in "No Trespassing" signs all over Pensacola Beach, and limited to zero access for other county residents. When that argument failed to sway Senator Nelson, they turned to using Santa Rosa County's stated wish for re-digging Navarre Pass at some unknown time in the future. That, coupled with his need for every vote for re-election, caused Nelson to withdraw his endorsement of the Senate bill, essentially killing this initiative until after the 2018 election.
Interestingly, one would have thought that once they killed the fee simple bill, they'd support Commissioner Robinson's efforts to permanently protect public areas, public access and the areas currently in conservation, but last month they used the same Land Development codes that they claim will not protect us from big developers converting our single family neighborhoods to condo canyons as their reason for not supporting the Commissioner's efforts. We find it disingenuous at best that they disregard an honest effort to ensure protections that could be changed tomorrow with a 3-2 vote of the county commission, or a majority vote of the SRIA. What they REALLY want is to prevent leaseholders from EVER getting title to their leaseholds, even though the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that those holding 99 year automatically renewing leaseholds are already property owners in the eyes of the law.
The Pensacola News Journal has jumped on the "Save Pensacola Beach" bandwagon, and their "reports" have, at best, been riddled with inaccuracies, and more probably been designed to intentionally mislead their readers into thinking that the leaseholders and residents of Pensacola Beach are a bunch of entitled rich folks who don't want the rest of the county's citizens to share the beach with them. We met with the editorial board of the PNJ and they made it clear which side they favor, so all we can do at this point is correct the many "errors" in their "news" stories.
Now is the time for our members to engage. Please come to the SRIA meetings and listen to what is discussed. There is also a joint SRIA/Board of County Commissioners meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 17th at 5:30 where they will be discussing increasing revenues (i.e. increasing lease fees) to replace the tax income they are no longer receiving on the land under properties without auto-renewing leases. We worked very hard to get the county to agree to provide the same basic services that other county taxpayers receive, but now that their tax revenues have been diminished, they are coming back to the well for us to pay all of the island's expenses once again!