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  PBA uses this blog to post individual articles from our monthly newsletters. Members can comment on these articles.
  • 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.


  • 03/06/2019 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    Commissioners:

    As promised (or threatened), this is to further illustrate why the results of the ill-conceived November “beach referendum” should never be relied upon as the basis for governance regarding fee simple title for Pensacola Beach leaseholders (nor even, really, as the basis for deciding what Escambia County citizens truly want, much less what they actually know, as to fee simple).

    Those of you active on local social media may already be familiar with this example; I’m an inveterate social media holdout but was recently informed about it by a friend, and I find it very telling:

    Seems one of the more virulent anti-fee-simple members of a local Facebook group, in an effort to prove that certain county officials favoring fee simple would themselves benefit from it financially – thereby boldly implying corruption – zeroed in on County Attorney Alison Rogers who, as you know, lives on Pensacola Beach.   This man recently asserted that Rogers only paid $1 for her lease.  (!!)  When asked for evidence, he posted a document showing a transaction in “...the sum of $1.00 (One Dollar) and other good and valuable considerations...,” obviously believing that the SRIA’s required ASSIGNMENT OF LEASEHOLD INTEREST document constituted the entire leasehold purchase transaction.  

    Do these people ever read the real estate listings, or peruse Chris Jones’ online assessment pages?? One has to wonder.  

    Look, this would be laughable if it weren’t so utterly pitiful and dangerous.   And personally, based on other conversations with mainlanders over the years, I doubt it’s anywhere near an isolated example of the prevailing rather cavernous ignorance about how the leasing system works here.  (Again, per my prior email, I’m NOT calling this stupidity, just an understandable lack of accurate public knowledge on a complex and unusual issue, made far, far worse by the yellow shirts, the Pensacola News Journal, and others). 

    I’ll share with you that, way back when Dianne Krumel began her personal crusade to prevent us leaseholders from ever holding title to our already private land (and buildings, though I doubt she knew that), and having noted that some of her and/or her cohorts’ web page info indicated that Pensacola Beach leaseholders were “only renters,” and/or that under fee simple we’d be getting our leasehold property “for free,” I decided to ask Dianne for a meet-up.  I emailed her, expressed my uncertainty as to just how much she understood about island real estate, and also as to why the leasing system was not the factor protecting against over-development.  I courteously asked if we could get together by phone, email, or in person, to talk things over.  

    Believe it or not, this was her exact emailed reply, in its entirety:

    “ You are simply a pawn in a greater scheme”  quoted and sent to you on behalf of Bob Kerrigan, Attorney

    To repeat a phrase from my prior email:  pure paranoid poppycock.

    Has anyone, just for instance, ever asked any of these people to name ONE developer they can prove to be part of this “greater scheme” to steal our beaches and turn us into a condo canyon???

    And has anyone ever asked them just how idiotic they think us leaseholders must be to want something that will ruin the very island we cherish and wall off our own beach access??

    So I ask once more:  Please don’t allow a referendum vote – no matter how large! -  to control the Escambia BOCC’s decision-making process going forward, when that vote resulted not only from very possible misunderstanding of the referendum’s two-part wording, but almost certainly -- at least in substantial part – from unfounded fear and misinformation promulgated through a long and relentless campaign by the yellow shirts, the PNJ, and others.   Don’t let it happen!

    We count on you to make wise and far-thinking decisions, even when (especially when) they seem politically difficult.   For the sake of the county’s future fiscal health and unity, please do the right thing and scrap plans for any ordinance that would seek to block fee simple title for Pensacola Beach leaseholders.  We are not the enemy here!  We’re simply Escambia County taxpayers who want the same legitimacy of fee simple title enjoyed by our fellow taxpaying property owners on the mainland.  Period.

    Commissioners, there is, in reality and truth,  no valid reason we shouldn’t all be on equal footing in this county as property-owning taxpayers.   This is not 1947; it’s 2019.    Please act accordingly. 

    - Linda Leithner


  • 03/05/2019 11:35 AM | Anonymous

    Commissioners:

    I’m no big fan of Matt Gaetz, nor especially of certain things he’s said and done lately.   But I’m even less of a fan of the Pensacola News Journal’s editorial board member, cartoonist and opinion writer, Andy Marlette.   Why am I telling the commissioners this?  Because Marlette’s latest diatribe against Gaetz, “Gaetz Gaffes Part II”,  further demonstrates what I’ve previously tried to say:  Escambia County citizens’ minds have been needlessly and wrongly poisoned against fee simple title for Pensacola Beach leaseholders, and not only by the “yellow shirts,” but also by our own community newspaper.  

    And since you, esteemed commissioners, are the ones who - at least currently - have the future of fee simple in your hands, it’s crucially important  that you, of all people, understand just how wrong it would be to institute a county ordinance blocking title for leaseholders based on the results of last November’s confusing two-part referendum, since those results were, in some unknown proportion, an outgrowth of ongoing misinformation and/or lies dished up over and over to an issue-ignorant public (NOT stupid people; just crucially lacking in knowledge of the issue’s complexities), thanks in no small part to the PNJ.

    First of all, if you read (please do!) Marlette’s diatribe linked above, specifically where it addresses Gaetz’s fee simple legislation and the PNJ’s coverage of same, you’ll note that Marlette asserts that “...numerous stories by [reporter] Melissa Nelson Gabriel...covered all sides of the issue extensively, fairly and honestly.”   This statement is beyond ludicrous, since, specifically on this matter, Nelson Gabriel is one of the most biased reporters this area has likely ever seen, eschewing meaningful interviews with knowledgeable pro-title individuals,  but instead continually pounding into her readers’ heads not only the wording of the 1947 federal deed restrictions, but also blasting the headlines at every conceivable opportunity with scare tactic stories about conflicts between beachgoers and beachfront property owners at other Florida locations having nothing whatsoever to do with the facts of the situation here. Nothing! 

    In the same piece, Marlette says Gaetz called the PNJ’s reporting “lies,” until, Marlette asserts, “When challenged [by journalists], Gaetz conceded that the reporting was accurate and that he knew it was not lies, despite the fact he had told citizens otherwise....   At last, a moment of truth and revelation. The mighty congressman — a young man willing to lie to the people he serves.” 

    (Really?  Don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to hear Gaetz’s side of that particular story.)

    Marlette also castigates Gaetz for his “pushing” the “...so-called ‘fee simple’ bill that would have led to the end of Escambia County citizens’ ownership of many area beaches on Santa Rosa Island.” 

    That statement, highlighted by me, is the very essence of the spurious untruth (some would say blatant lie, but the effect’s the same) that’s been foisted time and again upon the minds of our citizens.   As you should quite well know, under fee simple, ownership of the beaches themselves would not change, and the changed ownership of the adjacent properties would be entirely transparent to the beachgoer, exactly the same as with any other private property adjoining any other public park.   (You may be sick of hearing this – heck, I’m sick of writing about it -- but it’s the absolute crux of the matter.)

    But no, both the PNJ and the yellow shirts stubbornly continue to say “the beaches” would be stolen, walled off, whatever, and thus need to be “saved.”   That’s just pure paranoid poppycock.

    So, based on the untruths/lies/whatever one wishes to term them that Marlette and the PNJ continue to spout, I heartily agree with fellow leaseholder Tom Jardine’s PNJ.com comment on the subject Marlette article: 

    “I can hardly believe that Marlette has the temerity to accuse Matt Gaetz of lying about fee simple,” adding that the one who’s lying about the end of public ownership of Pensacola Beach is Andy Marlette.

    Please also look for another email to follow soon, further illustrating with a particularly glaring example just why the well-meaning but woefully misinformed citizens’ November referendum vote should never be the basis for an ordinance blocking the fee simple title option for Pensacola Beach leaseholders.

    Thank you for reading,

    Linda Leithner

  • 02/19/2019 3:48 PM | Anonymous

    Famed for its soft white sand, emerald-hued waters, and a carefree, easy-going atmosphere, Pensacola Beach has long been a favorite, family-friendly beach destination that locals cherish and newcomers embrace. The Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) is striving to keep it that way this Spring Break.

    “Every year Pensacola Beach becomes more popular as a Spring Break destination, and we welcome all visitors to our island,” said Paolo Ghio, Executive Director of the SRIA. “However, to ensure that everyone coming to Pensacola Beach for their vacation is able to enjoy the hospitality our community has to offer, please adhere to the following regulations.”

    KNOW THE RULES

    Adult beverages are allowed on the beach. Glass containers, underage drinking and public drunkenness are not. Illegal drugs and driving under the influence will not be tolerated. Laws and ordinances will be strictly enforced, for everyone’s safety.

    Wherever you’re staying, please be respectful of your neighbors and keep your noise level in check.

    In addition, motorized vehicles, generators, grills, fires and any open flames are prohibited on the beach.


    LEAVE ONLY YOUR FOOTPRINTS

    Rule of thumb: If you brought it to the beach, carry it back with you. Tents, umbrellas, chairs and beach gear are not allowed to be left overnight on the beach. Trash cans are provided near all beach entrances, and you are asked to fill in any holes you may dig in the sand.

    Dogs are welcome on the beach at two designated dog parks only. Rules of usage are posted on line and at the parks. As always, please be courteous and remove pet waste.

    “Remember the motto, ‘Leave Only Your Footprints Behind,’” said Ghio. “If you follow that advice, it will help to preserve the natural beauty of our beaches and help ensure all visitors have an enjoyable experience.”


    To ensure everyone enjoys the beach and stays safe, Escambia County Public Safety Chief Dave Greenwood would like to remind all beachgoers to follow these tips:
     

    KNOW THE FLAG COLORS

    Know how to swim if you are going into the Gulf, and always swim near a lifeguard. Lifeguards will be stationed on Pensacola Beach daily starting March 1 at Casino Beach, with patrols driving the island, as necessary. Lifeguard stations at Park East, Park West and Quietwater Beach will be manned depending on staffing availabilities. 

    Colored flags fly at all lifeguard stations and other beach entrances. This warning system is designed to alert the public about surf conditions. Here is what the colors mean:

    • Green flag – Low hazard. Conditions are calm. Swim with usual caution.
    • Yellow flag – Medium hazard. Moderate surf and currents. Swim with extra caution.
    • Red flag – High hazard. High surf and dangerous currents. No swimming or wading is allowed in the Gulf of Mexico.
    • Double red flag – WATER IS CLOSED. This is used during hurricanes or natural disasters. No swimming, wading or surfing is allowed in the Gulf of Mexico.
    • Purple flag – Dangerous marine life is present. Exercise caution when in the water or on the shoreline.

    Current flag colors and surf conditions are also accessible online at pensacolabeachlifeguards.com.  In case of emergency, notify a lifeguard or call 911.


  • 02/14/2019 7:22 AM | Anonymous

    Letter to the Commissioners:

    This is to urge you not to make a bad situation worse by approving an ordinance precluding fee simple title for Pensacola Beach leaseholders.

    As you’re all well aware, the group known variously as Save Our Beaches, Save Pensacola Beach, or just the “yellow shirts,” initially impelled by one very politically connected and strident organizer -- motivated in her “crusade” (her own word) by an admitted long-standing personal grudge against developers -- has managed to seriously mislead the citizens of Escambia County regarding the fee simple option.

    First we had the group’s unrelenting campaign of misinformation, based on entirely groundless fears that a simple change in the form of ownership of the already private leaseholds abutting the public beaches would lead to rampant over-development and loss of public access.    Over time, and with moneyed assistance, they managed to convince many thousands to sign a petition to “save our beaches,” as if our public beachfront lands were ever in any danger whatsoever, which in fact they never were.  But all those signatures presented at his office served to convince Senator Bill Nelson, facing an imminent re-election campaign, to withdraw his co-sponsorship of the federal legislation needed to allow conveyance of title to Pensacola Beach taxpayers.

    The group then lobbied former commissioner Grover Robinson, clearly under considerable political pressure of his own as he approached his mayoral run, to include a referendum on last November’s ballot that managed to continue the deeply misleading culture of the crusade, first by trumpeting at some length the preservation of non-leased lands – a measure the BOCC had already resolved in favor of, and which virtually everyone in the county would heartily approve  – but then tacking onto the end (after many voters may well have stopped reading) the group’s very short statement retaining the restrictions of the 1947 federal deed.  (As you’ll recall, Grover intended that second part to say instead - truthfully - that the BOCC had no position on fee simple, but the yellow shirts simply wouldn’t have it.)

    I doubt there’s anyone within range of your own voices who doesn’t know someone – maybe several someones - who didn’t fully grasp the ramifications of that ballot referendum, not only because it was rather stealthily designed to lure “yes” votes on its opening surface, but because, as stated above, the citizens who listened to the anti-title crusaders in the first place were terribly misled.   And then there were those who, like Andrew McKay of WNRP radio, were well-informed but understandably misconstrued the intent of the 1947 deed’s mention, thinking it was to apply going forward to the preserved, non-leased lands only.  Doubtless there were yet other misinterpretations.  In sum, this was a poorly designed, double-issue referendum, and its overwhelmingly positive but suspect results should most certainly not  be considered the valid basis for an actual county ordinance forbidding fee simple title for leaseholders.

    It’s clear there’s been a rolling snowball effect of the above unfortunate circumstances, all growing out of one person’s supposed bad experience with a Perdido Key developer (Perdido Key being, as we know, an entirely different animal), so it’s now up to you five -- with your leadership and statesmanship and individual strengths -- to stop any further bending to the will of a very loud but utterly misguided group of individuals who’ve skewed this issue all to heck, stubbornly refusing all efforts to provide them the facts, instead taking their frenzied fear-mongering tactics to the citizenry of our county and seriously misinforming them in the process.  

    It’s utterly appalling, and we pro-fee-simple folks don’t know where to turn, except to you.   As some of you may recall, I used to write about all this in occasional Pensacola News Journal viewpoint pieces, but the PNJ’s highly  biased-against-title executive editor has since effectively silenced my voice, refusing to publish another of my (hopefully) informative opinions, saying I’d already “written extensively on the subject,” even though almost a year had passed while the PNJ continued to further mislead the public.   Seems to me that should make each of you as angry as it does me.

    Because I’ve often been accused (including by myself) of being incurably verbose, I’ll stop here, but will send a supplemental email for those who have the patience to read more, providing additional evidence of just how rampantly pervasive the misinformation and just plain lack of fact remains on the fee simple issue in this county.

    Meanwhile, both my husband and I – who, by the way, would in fact pay substantially more ad valorem taxes under fee simple than we do now – urge that you stand firm and refuse to further tie your own and future commissioners’ hands (even if only politically) on fee simple, which we fervently hope may someday be seen in its true light --  as the very best and most logical solution to the awful mess that now exists as to Pensacola Beach leases – a mess which may well prove an even bigger snafu as the years wear on, and which serves to feed continuing tension between island and mainland citizens.  It’s just wrong for the county on so many levels!

    History will be your judge, so please take the long view.   Do the right thing now and refuse to institute an anti-title ordinance.

    - Linda & Arnold Leithner

  • 02/05/2019 3:23 PM | Anonymous

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates have been attempting to ensure that the SRIA Board and the Board of County Commissioners have a complete understanding of the nearly $9,000,000 net benefit that the taxpaying leaseholders on Pensacola Beach provide to Escambia County annually.  

    However, we are stunned by the actions of the County Commission, with the apparent endorsement and assistance of our new District 4 commissioner.  Some County Commissioners continue to insist that Pensacola Beach leaseholders are not paying enough in lease fees, and they intend to pressure the SRIA to impose a moratorium on lease renewals.

    What does this mean for those of us who have leases?  Future real estate transactions could be impacted if the buyer is unsure as to whether reasonably priced financing can be obtained.  At least one lending institution requires the full 99 years remaining on a leasehold to provide loans. Others have more than thirty year requirements. A moratorium will very likely stall all real estate transactions.  We oppose this effort to squeeze more money out of the beach by holding our leases hostage.  

    Fee Simple
    The final blow to our efforts came from Save Pensacola Beach.  As we've stated many times before, this group is not really focused on preventing development or loss of public access.  It appears that their only goal is to ensure that there is no possibility of leaseholders gaining title to the properties for which they pay taxes. 

    They insist that the County Commission enact an ordinance based on the non-binding referendum. They provided a draft ordinance attempting to bind current and future County Commission boards from  ever allowing title.  Commissioner Bender is working with them to draft an ordinance that will prevent the Commission from endorsing fee simple ownership.  This comes as a surprise since Commissioner Bender stated that he supported fee simple for those who wanted it during his campaign.  

    Pensacola Beach Advocates will not support this ordinance. Anyone who wants to have the opportunity to own their homes should show up at the SRIA and County Commission meetings and be heard!

    The real solution to preventing development and loss of public access is to lock the building cap at current levels. We had hoped to be working with our new commissioner to draft such a resolution. This cap would truly save our beach, but apparently preventing title is more important right now. 


  • 12/06/2018 8:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Tonight's Spring Break Meeting brought together the SRIA, Sheriff's Office, DMO, Beach Chamber of Commerce, residents and rental management companies.  After discussing what everyone would like to see happen, all agreed that the first, and possibly most important, step is put together a clear welcome message for potential visitors discussing our expectations of them during their stay.  A committee was formed to develop this message and they will be meeting soon to ensure we get in front of Spring Breakers ASAP. Here's a copy of the presentation from the meeting.

    Spring Break 2019.pdf

  • 11/17/2018 3:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One of the biggest changes to Pensacola Beach over the last 4 years has been the number of large, unruly, drunken parties that are taking over the residential neighborhoods, particularly during the weeks that U.S. colleges take their Spring Breaks.  

    Part of this is due to the increasing number of "home-tels" being approved and built to accommodate 20, 30, and even 40 people in one structure, but most of it is due to the fact that we are one of the few Gulf Coast communities that has not taken active steps towards preventing the associated problems that come with huge crowds partying in residential neighborhoods.

    Since 2015, Pensacola Beach has seen increased underage drinking, noise violations, nudity, physical violence, trespassing, public defecation & urination, overcrowding of rental properties, property damage, vagrancy, minor larceny, public intoxication, DUIs, etc. in recent years.  A comparison of law enforcement calls for March and July of 2018 show that the problems encountered during Spring Break are 2 to 8 times more frequent than during the height of the summer season, yet no arrests are being made. 

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates are working with our friends at the Santa Rosa Island Authority and the Escambia County Sheriff's Office to come up with a plan to enhance enforcement on Pensacola Beach for the 2019 Spring Break.  This will require the cooperation of everyone: residents, businesses, leaseholders, rental agents and vacationers, but the results will be worth it!  We're losing vacationing families who don't want to expose their children to the mob mentality that was witnessed in 2018, and we need those families back!

  • 06/18/2018 10:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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!


  • 09/26/2017 9:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The public areas of Pensacola Beach, including the sandy beaches and access points, are and will remain public. No one disputes this.

    The leased parcels and homes are different. The Florida Supreme Court says the leaseholder own them. And because they are not public, no property tax exemption applies. The leaseholders must and do pay property tax. Yet, the deed conveying Pensacola Beach from the federal government lists the public as the owners. This tension suggests determining ownership is not simple.

    In 1946, the federal government authorized the conveyance of Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County. It directed Pensacola Beach be used for the “public interest” (as deemed by Escambia) and specifically permitted private leases. Soon after, the Santa Rosa Island Authority, began leasing parcels with the assurance that they were not subject to property tax because the government remained the title owner.

    Most leases on Pensacola Beach are for 99 years and are renewable. So long as leaseholders pay their annual lease, it’s their parcel to use, sell, and leave to heirs. Escambia can’t take them back. Accordingly, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the leaseholders, and not the public, hold “virtually all the benefits and burdens of ownership of both the improvements and the land.” Because they effectively own the property, they must pay property tax. The Court elevated substance over form—practical property rights over the name on the deed. As a result of this 2014 ruling, most leaseholders now pay both property tax and lease fees.

    The lease fees were originally designed as tax substitutes—when everyone expected the land to be tax-exempt. Today, they pay for services and events enjoyed by people throughout Escambia — Blue Angles’ show, Bands on the Beach, and beach renourishment.

    Leaseholders understandably want relief from this double taxation. They support pending federal legislation that would eliminate the leases and thereby the lease fees. It would allow the deeds to properly reflect who already owns the parcels.

    Also understandably, everyone fears overdevelopment and losing the open and accessible character that makes our beach special. We see the trends and don’t want our beach to go the way of Destin.

    But will the federal legislation actually cause this? Its text says nothing at all about development. While by definition private development requires private ownership, the Court says that’s how it is already. And the “save our beach” opposition has yet to explain why their protests are anything more than undifferentiated fear and speculation. Civic debate requires more than loudly forecasting the what-ifs. The opponents must also say how this legislation will actually cause the parade of horribles. Ideally, they should also propose alternative solutions to the double taxation — like eliminating lease fees?

    Worse, the “save our beach” opposition to the federal legislation dangerously misidentifies the real threat to preserving the beach we all love. County officials can already amend leases and the land use code to pave the way for overdevelopment. The federal legislation would give them no new powers. Indeed, it removes significant authority by requiring the preservation in perpetuity of Pensacola Beach’s public spaces. The law would prohibit county officials from putting a high-rise on the Casino Beach. And because all gulf front lots end at the dune line, our beach would never have a “no trespassing” sign and no access points will be lost.

    So, the threat is not beach residents being deeded the homes they already own. The real threat is a county’s amendment of our land use code or increase of the cap on the number of condo and houses above the current (and mostly used) 4,128 dwelling units.

    Let’s not be distracted by current or proposed federal laws. They will not save us. Instead, we must stay focused on ensuring our county officials continue to be good stewards and remain committed to a vision of the beach as a family-friendly, environmentally-focused mixture of residences and beaches and business open to all.

    This was  published as a Guestview in the Pensacola News Journal on Sept. 26, 2017. 

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