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  • 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

    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. 

  • 08/11/2017 4:18 PM | Anonymous

    Matt Gaetz’s proposed law will allow Pensacola Beach leaseholders to finally own their homes.  Opponents fear that this would cut off public access and use of the beach and result in over-development.  However, their fears are misguided.  This legislation poses no such threat.  It maintains the status quo.  So long as local official remain committed to a vision of the beach as a family-friendly, environmentally-focused mixture of residences and business, we have nothing to fear.

    Local officials currently govern beach development.  In 1947, the U.S. Government deeded the non-federal land on Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County.  It conditioned the conveyance of the land being used for the public interest (as deemed by Escambia) and specifically permitted private leases.  In this way, the federal government left beach development in the hands of local officials.  Opponents claim that the leaseholds prevent development.  This is wrong.  Public officials already have the power to change leases and the land use code.  The legislation gives them no new authority.

    Current public access and beaches will forever remain publicThe legislation requires the “preserv[ation] in perpetuity [of] the areas ... dedicated for conservation, preservation, public recreation access, and public parking.”  That is Pensacola Beach’s beach and access points will forever be public.  This would prohibit Escambia from later deciding to lease these public spaces and convert them for private use.  Although the legislation permits Santa Rosa to lease its public land, that is no different than how it is today.  Both Santa Rosa and Escambia already have the authority to lease land currently reserved for public use.

    Beach residents, like county residents, want to preserve beach access and public use.  Unlike most of Florida, the private property line on Pensacola Beach ends at the dune, not the high-tide water line.  And the vast majority of beach residents do not have gulf-front property, but want to be able to access and enjoy the vast public beaches.  They too want to preserve the low-density, residential areas of the beach.

    Beach residents deserve fair tax treatment. In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that beach leaseholders enjoy “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.  However, unlike a fee simple property owner, they must also pay lease fees originally designed as a tax substitute.  The pending federal law would eliminate leaseholds and this double payment.

    The Navarre Pass requires federal government approval.  The federal law does not address the Navarre Pass.  The law will neither prohibit nor permit reestablishing it.  Instead, the Pass's authorization continues to depend on several federal agencies signing off, including the Air Force.  But because they all oppose it, the Navarre Pass is unlikely to happen. 

    We all share a common desire to preserve the Pensacola Beach we all love.  Instead of being divided over a law granting ownership to leaseholders, we should unite to ensure our local government continues to be a good stewards.

    This was substantially published as a Guestview in the Pensacola News Journal on Aug. 12, 2017. 


  • 07/27/2017 4:08 PM | Anonymous


    Meet Meg the Mermaid or take the Sea Turtle Oath at the Sea Turtle Baby Shower, Saturday, August 12th from 2 to 5 p.m. at Pensacola Beach’s Landshark Landing. It’s a celebration of Pensacola Beach’s 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 Landshark Landing, which is located on Fort Pickens Road on the Margaritaville Beach Hotel property.  

    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 Conservation Center.

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

    EVENT SCHEDULE

    2:00    Opening ceremony, Sea Turtle Oath; All Booths, Games, Vendors Open

    2:30    1-2-3 Nest Youth Challenge

    3:00    Meg the Mermaid

    3:30    1-2-3 Nest Celebrity Challenge

    4:00    DJ's Baby Bath Clean Water demo

    4:30    Sea Turtle Survivor

    5:00    Closing Ceremonies; All Booths, Games, Vendors Close


  • 05/26/2017 9:39 AM | Anonymous

    Senators Nelson & Rubio requested Senate committees take up and report to the full Senate S.1073 (2017).  The bill would permit leaseholders on Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach to obtain fee simple title to their land.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1073  It mirrors a companion bill in the U.S. House, proposed by Rep. Gaetz.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2370


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