Blog

  PBA uses this blog to post individual articles from our monthly newsletters. Members can comment on these articles.
  • 07/12/2015 11:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The SRIA’s proposed 2016 Budget reflects a nearly 50% reduction in expenses with the expectation that the Public Works (maintenance) and Public Safety (lifeguards) will be transferred to Escambia County as of October 1, 2015.  The SRIA will correspondingly reduce lease fees.

    However, arriving at a lease fee reduction that is fair to all is not straightforward.  The various interests of Direct Residential Leaseholders, Master Leaseholders and Commercial Leaseholders need to be balanced.  It is also essential that the lease fee reduction be passed on to sub-lessees wherever possible.

    To guide the SRIA and our beach community’s discussion of how to equitably and legally reduce lease fees, PBA engaged the law firm of Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond & Stackhouse to give an opinion on several issues.  Their opinion and the cover letter from PBA President, Benjamin Stevenson, to the SRIA are attached.

    The PBA’s Government Affairs Committee will continue to work with the SRIA staff and attorney over the next weeks to help structure a fair implementation program for the lease fee reduction. 


  • 06/23/2015 11:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Monday, June 22, 2015, the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) Board adopted its budget for fiscal 2016.  The budget reflects the transfer of the Public Works (maintenance) and Public Safety (lifeguards) to Escambia County effective October 1, 2015. This will reduce the SRIA’s operating budget by about 50%.  The SRIA Board directed a corresponding 50% reduction in residential and commercial lease fees.

    The SRIA budget is subject to review and approval by the Escambia County Board of Commissioners.  The County Administrator, Jack Brown, was at the SRIA meeting, and he indicated that the budget was in line with County expectations, although the County Board may require some undefined “tweaks” in the budget.

    This lease fee reduction is the direct result of coordinated work by the PBA, the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the major Beach hotels.

    Some implementation issues, such as how to get master leaseholders to pass on the lease fee reduction to its sub-lessees, need to be worked out. Also, we need to make sure the County lives up to its promise of maintaining the current level of service for the maintenance and lifeguard services.

    PBA will continue to work on obtaining additional lease fee reductions, with the ultimate goal of eliminating lease fees altogether.  We will also continue to work on getting fee-simple title for all Beach leaseholders. 


  • 06/15/2015 8:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Meet Mia the Mermaid or take the Sea Turtle Oath at the Sea Turtle Baby Shower, Saturday, August 15 from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Pensacola Beach’s Park West. It’s a celebration of our sea turtles. Learn about the mama turtle who returns to her birth place, Pensacola Beach, to lay her nest and the tiny hatchlings who emerge and head for the Gulf of Mexico. Make your own sea turtle ornament and touch a real turtle shell. There will be contests, games, performances, educational kiosks, give-aways, art vendors and a prize basket drawing. The event will take place at Park West, which is located at the end of Fort Pickens Road just prior to the National Park entrance. 

    If all the fun makes you thirsty, stop by the water booth to purchase a Turtles Dig the Dark souvenir, reusable cup filled with ice cold water. Proceeds benefit the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Marine Conservation Center.

    The event is sponsored by the Pensacola Beach Advocates, Holiday Inn Express, Margaritaville Beach Hotel and Emerald Coast Utilities Authority.

    For more details, go to www.pbadvocates.org or call 850-916-6971.


  • 06/04/2015 11:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On May 28, 2015, the Florida Circuit Court in Escambia County granted summary judgment to the tax authorities in a case challenging the taxation of 12 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to Portofino condominiums. Island Resort Investments, Inc., v. Jones et al., No. 2011-ca-002367 (Fla. 1st Cir. Escambia Cnty.).  

    The ruling states that leasees have an “equitable ownership” in the leased land--and not just the improvements--and therefore the land is subject to ad-valorem taxes. This is similar to the Florida Supreme Court rulings last year on the taxability of leasehold improvements on Pensacola Beach (1108 Ariola) and leasehold land and improvements on Navarre Beach (Accardo).

    The Escambia Courts have not yet ruled on two additional cases challenging the taxation of the leased land of the Portofino and Beach Club condominiums.  Once these rulings are issued, assuming the conclusions are the same, Pensacola Beach Advocates will press the County to eliminate lease fees altogether.

    In the meantime, PBA is continuing to work with the SRIA and Escambia County Board of Commissioners to effect a substantial lease fee reduction effective October 1, 2015.

  • 05/28/2015 12:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last night, our PBA, together with the PB Chamber, representatives from the PB hotels, and other concerned citizens pressed the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) last night to reduce its budget.  As a result, the SRIA Board asked its staff to reduce the 2016 budget and transfer about $4.6 million in costs to Escambia County.

    Cost transfers would include the cost of maintenance and lifeguards, as well as road maintenance and other costs normally borne by Escambia County in all other areas of the County.

    The effect would be to reduce the SRIA 2016 budget by about 50%, with a similar 50% reduction in lease fees for all residential and commercial lease fees.

    This is great news and welcome relief.  Special thanks to Jim Cox and Terry Preston, PBA Government Affairs Committee, for the hard work and dedication they invested over the last year into achieving the goal of reducing lease fees.  Thank you also for all those who turned out last night to show support.

    If Escambia County Commissioners accept the SRIA budget and assume those costs, the lease fee reductions would go into effect October 1, 2015. The Board of County Commissioners have promised to maintain the current level of services on Pensacola Beach.  We need to be sure they live up to that promise.

    PBA members are encouraged to attend the next SRIA Budget Workshop on June 10th and express their support for reduced SRIA budget and lease fees.


  • 04/24/2015 9:15 AM | Anonymous

    PBA would like to thank all beach residents and business owners, members and non-members alike, for such a great turnout last night at the public input session.  The following article from the PNJ is proof that a strong showing by island residents and businesses is important in order to get our message out regarding lease fee reductions, allocation of tax revenue, the future of the SRIA, and fee simple title:

    By Kimberly Blair, PNJ, 4/24/15:

    Keep the Santa Rosa Island Authority.

    Keep the same level of services on Pensacola Beach.

    Make Escambia County pay for those services with taxes collected from beach leaseholders.

    That was the consensus among 100 mostly Pensacola Beach folks who showed up at a public forum Thursday, hosted by the West Florida Regional Planning Council.

    The planning council has been contracted to analyze the organizational structure of the Island Authority and funding sources to figure out ways to continue to pay for beach services the public expects on the island to pave the way for a reduction or elimination of lease fees. Lease fees paid by residents and businesses fund the Island Authority's $9 million budget.

    Some people said they expected the meeting to be a full on debate and wax on for hours.

    But it ended in about 45 minutes and only 12 people stood up to speak, resoundingly in favor of keeping the SRIA in tact, and resolute that now that they are paying taxes, Escambia County should be footing the bill for lifeguards, maintenance and other necessary services for the beach to continue to be the county's major tourist draw.

    Peter Nemeth got a round of applause when he said the county should reinvest some of the (tax) money back into the beach. Use some of the the tax windfall to fund the SRIA.

    "And all residents should get a free pass on the toll bridge," he said.

    Charles Parris said lease fees have to go.

    "This is double taxation. It's incumbent on them (the county) to provide us essential services," he said. "No one loves Bands on the Beach more than I do. Obviously, the Blue Angels are part of our DNA. The county needs to come up with that money, not from the lease fees."

    Nan Harper said one of the reasons Pensacola Beach is Northwest Florida's jewel is because of how well it's maintained. Workers are on the beach before dawn and don't stop cleaning it up until well after dark, she pointed out.

    "We just won a major award because of the care and maintenance of the Island Authority," she said. "If we reduce that level of maintenance, of course our tourism success is going to diminish."

    The public meeting was part of the final phase of the planning council's analysis it will present to the SRIA board in the near future, said Regional Planner Vikki Garrett, who moderated the forum.

    She said the next step is to summarize Thursday's comments and present them to the SRIA board.

    The board will use the findings to make recommendations to Escmabia County commissioners who are looking into what services on the beach the county can take over with tax dollars.

    "The SRIA board wants to feel confident they are doing something that is supported by the community," Garrett said. "They are having to make tough decisions."

    The next step in the process, she said, is presenting the SRIA board the planning council's analysis of the Island Authority operational structure during a workshop Friday.

    Want to go?

    WHAT: Santa Rosa Island Authority Comprehensive Analysis workshop, hosted by West Florida Regional Planning Council.

    WHEN: 1-3 p.m. Aug. 24.

    WHERE: SRIA building, 1 Via de Luna, Pensacola Beach.

    WHO: Open to the public but there will be no public comment period.

    DETAILS: (850) 932-2257.


  • 04/16/2015 9:26 PM | Anonymous

    By Kimberly Blair, PNJ, April 16, 2015:

    If you love Pensacola Beach events like Bands on the Beach or the Blue Angels Air show, your opinion is needed.

    Or if you could care less about how clean the beach and its public bathrooms are kept, mark your calendars.

    West Florida Regional Planning Council has been contracted to study its organizational structure of the Island Authority and funding sources to figure out ways to continue to pay for beach services the public expects on the island, if lease fees are reduced.

    As part of that process, the Council is hosting a public forum at 5:30 p.m. April 23 at the Pensacola Beach Community Church, 920 Panferio Drive, Pensacola Beach.

    Island Authority board member Janice Gilley, who advocated for public input during this process, said the forum will provide the platform for residents, beach business owners and employees and people who visit the beach to have their opinions heard about this issue.

    "The most important thing is; this is the island's government body," she said. "If you would like to maintain the current structure, it's important to let the (Island Authority) board and county know this. If you would like to see major changes in the current government structure, you need to have your voices heard.”

    Whatever decisions are made, there will likely be financial implications to beach residents and the public — such as reduced lease fees and possible adoption of other fees the public may have to pay to make up for the loss of lease fees, which funds the $8.9 million Island Authority budget.

    This will be the first time the public has had this opportunity to voice their opinions about their vision for the future of the beach outside of Island Authority or county board meetings.

    Since the SRIA was created by the Florida legislature in 1947, it has been fully funded from lease fees collected from businesses and residences on the beach.

    The mission of the SRIA is "to promote tourism, manage growth and provide entertainment in a safe, clean, eco-friendly environment."

    From public works and public safety, to environmental and development services and events, Island Authority services include: Blue Angels Beach Show and Bands on the Beach; funding of the Pensacola Beach Visitors Information Center and Chamber of Commerce; road and right-of-way maintenance; wayfinding and public information signage; drainage; parking lots; lighting; facility maintenance; beach access; coordination with law enforcement, fire/rescue/EMS and other public safety agencies; management of lease payments and customer service; and review of construction, development and redevelopment to ensure they are consistent with applicable local, state and federal regulations.

    For more information, contact WFRPC Regional Planner Vikki Garrett at vikki.garrett@wfrpc.org or call (850) 332-7976, ext. 211.

    View details about what the Island Authority operates at http://sria-fla.com/viewpoint.php.

  • 04/09/2015 12:03 PM | Anonymous
    With lease fees on the chopping block and taxes here to stay, what does the future hold for the SRIA?  A Public Input Session will be held on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. at the Pensacola Beach Community Church.  The West Florida Regional Planning Council (WFRPC), who has been hired by the SRIA to help them plan for the upcoming transitions, will host the session.  They are seeking input from the general public regarding the future organizational structure and funding sources of the Santa Rosa Island Authority.  See the attached Notice for additional details.

    PBA urges all of its members to attend.  Not only will it provide our members with the opportunity to become better informed about the future of our community, but it also provides us all with the chance to make our voices heard.  

    We look forward to seeing everyone there.

  • 04/07/2015 7:33 AM | Anonymous
    By Kimberly Blair

    Emerald Coast Blues Brothers kicks off one of the most popular musical events on Pensacola Beach at 7 p.m. on Tuesday — the 30-week Bands on the Beach concert series.

    The weekly concerts are free and open to the public.

    In an era when we mostly communicate with friends and loved ones through social media or smartphones, the concerts offer a unique opportunity to bring friends, families and couples together. They set up their lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. Heck, some folks go all out with tables and candles and full meals while enjoying the music and sense of community for two hours.

    Hands down, the venue at the Gulfside Pavilion on Casino Beach, against the backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico, is unparalleled. Band concerts typically attract 2,000 to 4,000 people who turn out to see some of the most popular local and regional bands.

    Clearly, our community loves free outdoor concerts.

    So, if you're a Bands on the Beach fan, you may want to make sure you get to as many of the weekly concerts as possible this year.

    Santa Rosa Island Authority budgets $60,000 to sponsor the series, which pays for acts, sound, lights and other costs. In an effort to give beach residents relief from paying both Island Authority lease fees on top of county taxes, county officials are pouring over the Island Authority budget to see what services it will take over paying for with the taxes from the beach.

    The idea is to whittle down the budget so lease fees can be reduced. It's possible in the future, if beach leaseholders are able to get titles to their land, lease fees will be eliminated.

    When the lease fees go so too goes the budget for many things like Bands on the Beach.

    Some of those sitting in on the meetings say Bands may have to get corporate sponsors to continue in the future, just like the other free concert series in the area.

    For instance, Bands on the Blackwater in Milton is sponsored by Santa Rosa Medical Center and other companies. Hill-Kelly Dodge is among a number of sponsors who pay the tab on Evenings in Olde Seville Square. Blues Angel Music sponsors Blues on the Bay in the Community Maritime Park Amphitheater. Even Navarre's Summer Concert Series depends on sponsors.

    None of these other series provide as extensive of a lineup, spanning 30 weeks, as Bands on the Beach, though.

    The Island Authority puts it on not just for locals but to also provide a "family-friendly" activity on the beach. That's something sorely needed. After a day in the sun and surf, there's not many attractions for families with children, or visitors who don't want to hit the bar scene, to do on the beach in the evening.

    W. A. "Buck" Lee, Island Authority executive director, firmly believes this is why county officials will continue to support the series on their largest tourist attraction.

    I hope he's right.

    Because as line items in the budget are scrutinized — including critical items such as lifeguards and beach maintenance — and the future of the Island Authority is analyzed, Bands on the Beach may end up in the column with no government funding.

    We can only hope that beach hotels whose guests go to the concerts and the bars and restaurants that benefit from concertgoers' business, and even the liquor distributors, will step up and sponsor the series.

    In the meantime, get out your dancing shoes and get ready for a great lineup of "Good Vibrations" on the white sands of Pensacola Beach.

    Did I mention you get a sunset with the package?

    For more details, visit http://www.visitpensacolabeach.com/events/bands-on-the-beach.php.

  • 03/31/2015 5:13 PM | Anonymous

    The following article can be found in the latest edition of the Island Times.  PBA encourages all members to reach out to your Congressmen and Senators -- if you want fee simple title you need to let them know!

    Island Times -- Congressman Jeff Miller introduced a bill March 18 in the House of Representatives that would give Escambia County the ability to offer Fee Simple title to beach leaseholders. The bill, which is H. R. 1452, is similar to the bill that passed the House in February 2014, except this bill has gained Senator Marco Rubio’s support.

    “Santa Rosa Island residents should have title to properties they are already taxed on, and this bill intends to remove obstacles the government has put up in the way of this,” Rubio said. “With the input of offi cials in the region and impacted members of the community, we’ve developed this solution to provide people with options to the land so they can move on with their lives.”

    Last year’s bill passed the house and languished in the Committee. H.R. 1452 has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources which will consider it before sending it to the House fl oor for consideration.

    The Senate’s version, S 770, was introduced by Senator Rubio on March 18. This bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources which will consider it before sending it to the Senate fl oor for consideration.

    After the court battles contesting the taxation of leasehold property and improvements made their way through the legal system, leaseholders were faced with the burden of paying both taxes and lease fees. The conveyance of Fee Simple title would in essence make leases void.

    When Santa Rosa Island was originally deeded to Escambia County, the County could only lease the land, not sell it. The restriction on use and conveyance would be lifted if this bill passes the Legislature.

    “This is a fairness issue,” said Miller. “This legislation will help to ensure that leaseholders currently paying taxes and living and working on Santa Rosa Island have the choice to attain title to their land, while also upholding current conservation agreements and public access to the island’s beaches.”

    Included in the bill: Escambia County would have the ability to offer Fee Simple title to leaseholders but would not be able to charge more than it costs to administer the transfer. Leaseholders would not be compelled to take title.

    Escambia County will have to convey Navarre Beach to Santa Rosa County.

    Escambia County and Santa Rosa County shall in perpetuity preserve those areas on Santa Rosa Island currently dedicated to conservation, preservation, public, recreation, access and public parking in accordance with resolutions heretofore adopted by the Board of County Commissioners of each respective county.

    Pensacola Beach Advocates Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Terry Preston asked fellow islanders and interested parties to contact elected offi cials to voice their support of the proposed legislation.

    Contact Senator Marco Rubio: http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact 202-225-4136

    Contact Senator Bill Nelson: http://www.billnelson.senate.gov/contact-bill 202-224-5274

    Contact Congressman Jeff Miller: https://jeffmiller.house.gov/contact/contactform.htm 202-225-4136

    Readers can track the progress of H.R. 1452 online at https://www.govtrack.us

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