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  PBA uses this blog to post individual articles from our monthly newsletters. Members can comment on these articles.
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  • 08/23/2019 9:21 AM | Anonymous

    After two years of obfuscating information, outright lies and misrepresentations, bullying and obstructing the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners from doing the job we elected them for, a totally bogus petition, and a referendum that was misunderstood by most of the voters, the "Save Pensacola Beach" folks complained that since the wording in the proposed county ordinance that the SRIA voted in was not exactly what they asked for, they would not support it, and, in fact, would sue everyone they could because it was obviously collusion or worse. I guess if you spread lies long enough you forget what you were asking for.

    CLICK HERE TO READ THE ORDINANCE 

    The good news: The SRIA added a requirement for a unanimous BoCC vote to change the building cap, and prohibited any trading of capped units between properties. At least these two PBA-suggested provisions will actually SAVE Pensacola Beach.

  • 08/06/2019 10:46 AM | Anonymous

    Recent discussions with both leaseholders and other county residents have unfortunately shown that the "Save Pensacola Beach" efforts to mislead the public as the what the SRIA lease system actually does have been largely successful. 

    These are the FACTS: Under the terms of ALL leases, Escambia County is the owner of all land and of improvements of a permanent character erected or placed on the county-held land. Additionally, all leases contain clauses requiring lessees to repair or rebuild any damaged or destroyed improvement, and lessees are prohibited from removing any permanent improvement; no lease contains any clause granting an option to purchase either the land or the improvements; and leases provide for different renewal periods. Leases on more than 600 parcels contain no renewal provision. Some provide for renewal on terms that are subject to negotiation or “renegotiation,” and some require a written notice to renew; and, no leases are automatically renewable or perpetual in duration.

    In short, YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR HOME, BUSINESS or the land or which it sits, and if it is destroyed, you must rebuild it.  Additional lease provisions might also surprise you.  Many leases require that the leasehold be the primary residence of the leaseholder, while others roll all of the rules of the homeowners' association at the time of issuance into the lease language.  IF you haven't done so, READ YOUR LEASE.  You might be violating it and not even know it.

    The SRIA continues to grapple with how to equitably charge the leaseholders who do not have equitable ownership on their land for the services they receive.  This and the proposed ordinance preventing us from ever owning our taxed leaseholds will be discussed at a workshop at the SRIA building at 4:00 p.m. on August 14th.  We recommend that all interested leaseholders attend!

  • 07/11/2019 6:57 PM | Anonymous

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates were well-represented at the SRIA Lease and Ordinance Workshop!  Thanks to all who came to the meeting to show that more people than just the "yellow shirts" care about the beach! Our suggestion to streamline lease renewals and not put the financial burden of drafting the renewal language on the leaseholder was well-received. Unfortunately, when the SRIA's attorney delivered his amended ordinance from the County Commission, he took out the one section that both we and the yellow shirts wanted: namely the prohibition of sale or lease of any unleased properties on Pensacola Beach, especially those already designated for recreation, public access and conservation.  They did, however, respond positively to our proposal to require the Commission to have a unanimous vote before allowing increases to the building cap or trades of capped units from one property to another.  We'll continue to monitor this as they prepare for another workshop!

    Please join us for the Sea Turtle Baby Shower on Saturday, August 10th from 11am-2pm at Landshark Landing!  This event is always a great family day with activities for all ages and lots of great information on our unique winged and flippered visitors!

  • 06/25/2019 3:43 PM | Anonymous

    The Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) is delighted to announce the arrival and deployment of Mobi-Mats on Pensacola Beach.

    Mobi-Mat is a portable rollout, non-slip matting that is temporarily or permanently laid down on the ground to provide non-slip and traffic resistant access for all wheelchairs, strollers, and pedestrians on sand, grass, or other soft and unstable surfaces.

    Funded by the SRIA and deployed by Escambia County Public Works, the mats will be located on 5 beaches along the island:

    · Casino Beach

    · Park West North Beach

    · Moms Beach

    · Boardwalk Beach

    · Baby Beach

    An additional feature will be found at Casino Beach and Moms Beach: a Mobi-Chair, which is an amphibious wheelchair that will provide the user to access the Gulf or the Sound when conditions allow its safe use.

    A ribbon cutting of the Casino Beach Mobi-Mat will be held on Friday, June 28 at 10 a.m. on Pensacola Beach.

  • 06/24/2019 9:46 AM | Anonymous

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates look forward to participating in the SRIA lease workshop on Wednesday June 26th at 3:00 p.m.  Since the "Save Pensacola Beach" group abdicated their supposed efforts to ensure preservation of existing recreation, conservation and public access areas in favor of attempting to prevent any future efforts at obtaining title to ALREADY LEASED properties, the PBA is working on drafting an ordinance that will accomplish preservation of these areas.  We'll be ready to present something at the workshop, and we encourage all of our members to attend!

    We believe that before passing any more ordinances, the Board of County Commissioners and the SRIA need to ensure that any proposed ordinance is in line with their stated mission, accomplishes something positive, and is enforceable.  We already have several ordinances specific to Pensacola Beach that are not enforced at all, or are only sporadically enforced.  Adding another just to appease a disruptive group of protesters is not reasonable. 

    We are proposing an ordinance that will prevent LEASE or SALE of any UNLEASED properties on Pensacola Beach, and will require a unanimous vote of the Board of County Commissioners to increase the current building cap and/or allow transfer of units from one property to another under the current cap.  This will prevent overdevelopment of the island, preserve public properties and accesses and maintain our community the way that it currently exists, with a well-designed mix of commercial, multi-family and single-family units.

    We are also advocating for a more streamlined lease renewal system, especially for leases that are 99-year auto-renewing leases.  Currently, the leaseholder is required to draft the renewal, and then submit and record the document after the SRIA signs off on the renewal.  This process is costly to the leaseholder since it requires them to engage a lawyer familiar with this specific leasehold law and has already resulted in adding even more changes to the myriad types of leases that are on the island. We will propose that the SRIA develop a boilerplate 99-year auto-renewing lease that leaseholders could use for their renewals by simply filling in the blanks.  Renegotiable leases are open to change in language and terms, but a boilerplate for those leases could also be developed.

  • 06/11/2019 6:49 PM | Anonymous

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates joined the SRIA, the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce and Commissioner Robert Bender recently to thank the Sheriff's Office and first responders, who teamed with us to make Pensacola Beach Spring Break more family-friendly and safe!  This year the public information campaign, coupled with enhanced law enforcement presence during Spring Break helped to prevent some of the mob-like gatherings experienced in previous years. There were over 1000 interventions, 42 arrests, and fewer evictions than in 2017 or 2018.  We look forward to partnering with these folks again in 2020!

    During a recent Pensacola town hall, Representative Matt Gaetz answered a question from Dianne Krumel, organizer of Save Pensacola Beach (SPB). She asked Gaetz where he stood on fee-simple in the wake of the 2018 Escambia County referendum, where more than 80% of voters supported a policy to protect public access, conservation and recreation lands and prohibit selling unleased land on the island. Gaetz responded that due to the effective misinformation campaign that Ms. Krumel's group and the Pensacola News Journal conducted, he did not intend to re-file the legislation this term. Without companion bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, this issue is essentially tabled until after the 2020 election.

    In the meantime, the SPB people have stated that they are not interested in preserving access, recreation and conservation areas, but rather only want to prevent fee simple title. They presented the SRIA and Escambia County Commission with a draft ordinance that would prevent the Commission from ever endorsing fee simple legislation in the future.  The SRIA will be discussing this proposal at a workshop currently scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26th. 

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates, however, are still interested in ensuring that our wonderful beach remains accessible and that future development doesn't turn us into a condo canyon.  To that end, we will be introducing our own draft ordinance to protect public access, conservation and recreation lands and require a unanimous vote of all Commissioners before the Pensacola Beach building cap could be increased, in hopes that the beach can really be "saved" just as it is!  

    The other notable development in the last week was that the First District Court of Appeals, unanimously AFFIRMED the ruling by Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Scott Duncan that the Escambia County School District lacked standing to challenge the Constitutionality of Fla. Stats. Section 196.199(2)(b) governing taxation of leases on government-owned land.  This ruling lets stand the trial court’s ruling that the land beneath Santa Rosa Dunes at Pensacola Beach belongs to the County, and is thus immune from ad valorem taxation.  The original ruling prevents land parcels that have negotiable or less than 99-year leases from being taxed. Most of the condominiums on Pensacola Beach have leases that require some negotiation at the time of renewal, and therefore, are not required to pay taxes on the land under their buildings.  This ruling did not change the status of those properties with what is called an auto-renewing 99-year lease.  Those properties pay taxes on both the leased land and buildings.

  • 06/02/2019 9:08 PM | Anonymous

    Florida's First District Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court's decision denying the Escambia County School District's standing to intervene in a dispute between Pensacola Beach leaseholders and the county's property appraiser. 

    Thursday's ruling involved a case brought by owners of condominiums in the Santa Rosa Dunes Complex.

    Ed Fleming, an attorney who represented the Santa Rosa Dunes residents and who has represented hundreds of other beach residents in tax cases against the county, said the ruling should put an end to legal questions about whether leased land underneath condominium complexes should be subject to ad valorem taxes.

    "We are obviously pleased with the ruling," he said in a released statement.

    Malcolm Thomas, superintendent for the Escambia County School district, questioned the ruling.

    "It is mysterious to me that they would say we do not have standing because the school district has millions of dollars at stake from all properties in Escambia county, not just the beach," he said.

    Thomas said he did not know what next steps the district might take. Thomas has previously said the district had $6 million in a reserve account created to hold disputed taxes. More than 30 condominium homeowners associations have filed lawsuits questioning the collection of taxes on leased land.

    Pensacola Beach is unique because it was deeded to Escambia County, along with much of the rest of Santa Rosa Island, in 1947. The deed agreement prohibited the county from selling the beach land and stated that the land must be used in a way that benefits the public. 

    The county decided in the 1950s to develop the beach to bring in tourism revenue and set up a system of 99-year leases to encourage commercial and residential development on the island. The county advertised "tax-free" beach land in publications nationwide. 

    After Pensacola Beach was heavily developed in the 1980s, the county turned to the beach as a source of property tax revenue. The move prompted a long series of lawsuits that continue today. 

    Complicating the issue is that language in the leases has changed over the decades. Some leases are open for renegotiation after 99 years and others are perpetually renewable. The courts have ruled that the perpetually renewable leases are tantamount to outright ownership and can be taxed, while the renegotiable leases are not.


  • 05/30/2019 6:56 PM | Anonymous

    The First District Court of Appeal, in an opinion released today, has unanimously AFFIRMED the ruling by Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Scott Duncan ruling that the Escambia County School District lacked standing to challenge the Constitutionality of Fla. Stats. Section 196.199(2)(b) governing taxation of leases on government-owned land.  This ruling lets stand the trial court’s ruling that the land beneath Santa Rosa Dunes at Pensacola Beach belongs to the County, and is thus immune from ad valorem taxation.

    The issue was before the First DCA on an appeal by the Escambia County School District which sought, at the behest of the Escambia County Property Appraiser, to challenge the constitutionality of the controlling tax statute.   All of the judges on the three-judge panel acknowledged that controlling precedent supported the trial judge’s granting of summary judgment against the school district.  In a concurring opinion, Judge Bilbrey wrote that while he disagreed with the broad restrictions placed on standing by public officials, that he agreed the panel was bound to follow such precedent.   He pointed out that the First DCA had previously upheld the constitutionality of the challenged statute, concluding that “even if the District had standing to sue, we would be correct to affirm…”

    “We are obviously pleased with this decision,” said Ed Fleming, who together with Todd Harris, represented Santa Rosa Dunes.  “This puts to bed the last avenue for challenging the earlier wins for Pensacola Beach leaseholders in Island Resorts v. Jones, and Beach Club v. Jones.”

    Harris said that more than half of the pending cases with the Property Appraiser concerning valuing improvements only, recognizing the immunity of publically-owned land, have been resolved; and he and Fleming are optimistic that the remaining cases can be resolved as well.


  • 04/18/2019 4:56 PM | Anonymous

    There are two companion bills that take away ALL LOCAL CONTROL over short term rental properties working their way through the Florida House and Senate as we publish this edition (April 2019) of the Island Times.  We'd like to be able to tell you that all of our representatives do not support this power-grab by the state, but Representative Andrade has indicated that he does support it and has already voted for the house version in his committee.  

    The bills are HB987 and SB824.  

    Here's the pertinent language from HB987:

    "Section 1. Paragraph (b) of subsection (7) of section 16 509.032, Florida Statutes, is amended to read: 509.032 Duties.— (7) PREEMPTION AUTHORITY.— (b)1. The Legislature finds that:

    a. Property owners who use their residential property as a vacation rental have constitutionally protected property rights and other rights that must be protected, including the right to use their residential property as a vacation rental.

    b. Vacation rentals play a significant, unique, and critical role in the state's tourism industry, and that role, including the factors related to the ownership and operation of such rentals, is different from other types of public lodging establishments.

    c. Vacation rentals are residential in nature, residential in use, and allowed in residential neighborhoods.

    2. Except as provided in this paragraph, the regulation of vacation rentals, including, but not limited to, inspection, licensing, and occupancy limits, is preempted to the state.

    3. A local law, ordinance, or regulation may regulate activities that arise when a residential property is used as a vacation rental, provided that such law, ordinance, or regulation applies uniformly to all residential properties without regard to whether the residential property is used as a vacation rental, as defined in s. 509.242, or a long-term rental subject to chapter 83, or whether a property owner chooses not to use his or her residential property as a vacation rental. However, a local law, ordinance, or regulation may not prohibit vacation rentals, impose occupancy limits, or regulate the duration or frequency of rental of vacation rentals. A local law, ordinance, or regulation may not authorize or require the inspection or licensing of a vacation rental. A court shall determine whether a local law, ordinance, or regulation complies with this paragraph. If an action is brought pursuant to this paragraph, the local government that enacted the local law, ordinance, or regulation shall establish by clear and convincing evidence that such local law, ordinance, or regulation complies with this paragraph."

    Supporters of this legislation claim that they intend to regulate a "new industry," not take power from local government; however, the vacation rental industry is far from new, and registration with the state is ALREADY REQUIRED.  We believe that this action is solely to prevent local governments from enacting ordinances preventing the building of more "HOMETELS" in residential neighborhoods, or prescribing minimal rental periods such as 6 months for residential neighborhoods.  The House bill even goes as far as removing the grandfathering of local laws that were in place prior to 2011.  We encourage everyone who values the quiet enjoyment that we expect in single family residential areas to call or email their state representatives and let them know that you OPPOSE these bills.  Leave neighborhood planning to the LOCAL governments.  

    UPDATE as of June 2019: The bills mentioned above died in committee.


  • 03/12/2019 1:36 PM | Anonymous

    Spring Break has officially commenced on Pensacola Beach.  The hotels and rentals are filling up and the cars are beginning to line the streets.  The Spring Break information campaign is being pushed by the SRIA, VISIT Pensacola, and the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce.  Our neighbors to the east jumped-started their Spring Break by posting photos of shackled underage drinkers on their way to jail.  It remains to be seen how effective our efforts on Pensacola Beach will be, but we hope that everyone can enjoy our beautiful beach in peace and harmony!

    Meanwhile, the Board of County Commissioners intends to consider some sort of ordinance preventing fee simple title on Pensacola Beach.  We were given the opportunity to review a draft, and offered our own draft ordinance, which would ensure public areas remain public and prevent over development.  Now we wait to see when the item makes the agenda.  At their last meeting, the Commission was asked to approve or veto a lease renewal for one of the so-called "perpetual" leases.  Apparently the commission demanded a 30 day period to review any lease renewals passed by the SRIA.  We oppose these actions since the leases are between the leaseholder and the SRIA, not the County commission. We are also concerned that while both the SRIA and the commission have been talking about making lease language more uniform, and streamlining the renewal process, the actual process requires the leaseholder to engage an attorney and draft their own renewal.  Besides the unnecessary cost to the leaseholder, this process guarantees that each renewal will be unique, not uniform.  We don't think that's a good idea.

    The last issue that leaseholders need to consider is the future of the SRIA.  The County Commission is questioning the need for the SRIA at all.  Discussion of abolishing the SRIA came up at the March 7th agenda review meeting.  Do you value having an SRIA board?  We've been advised that since few leaseholders attend meetings, it's assumed that we don't care whether we have a board or not.  If you value the SRIA, make your voices heard.  Call or email your SRIA board and County Commission members and let them know how you feel.


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