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Board says Navarre incorporation vote not their responsibility

Commissioner Ray Eddington said Florida State Rep. Joel Rudman asked him to put a discussion on Navarre’s incorporation on the agenda. The area Rudman represents includes Santa Rosa County. State Rep. Alex Andrade also represents a portion of Santa Rosa County that would be impacted if Navarre incorporated.

The agenda item involved getting a non-binding straw poll on November’s ballot to get a consensus opinion from residents about incorporating Navarre.

“Find out from both of them what they would want,” said Commissioner Colten Wright in reference to the state representatives. “And if there’s something they want from [the board of commissioners,] get it in writing so it’s public and out there … And that’s where the goalposts are. If we know where the goalposts are, then we can work with that. But right now, it’s nothing but variables and wish lists and we are just talking in circles.”

Wes Siler, who is leading the Preserve Navarre group, didn’t ask the commission to give an opinion on incorporation Monday. Rather, he just asked that they call for a vote on incorporation so the public can decide. He said Preserve Navarre will do the groundwork if it knows it’s going to lead to a straw poll.
“My frustration is … codify it. If they codify this, then we will meet the standards,” Siler said. “I can’t do the legwork if the goalposts are changing every 5 minutes.”

Ultimately, District 4 Commissioner Ray Eddington led the discussion, putting the onus on the state representatives.

“I don’t think we need to take a vote yet. We need to really get serious and look at this,” Eddington said. “This was set in my lap. It shouldn’t have been set in my lap. It shouldn’t have even come before this county board.”

There was also some confusion from the commissioners about whether Navarre Beach wanted to be included in any Navarre incorporation. Eddington said he’d heard from several people with property on Navarre Beach who had no interest in being incorporated as part of Navarre.

However, many in the audience disagreed with that statement.

Commissioners were also concerned about a 2022 feasibility study published by Preserve Navarre that gives an idea of possible expenses and requirements for incorporating the city.

“Right now, there are far more questions than answers. The study itself – it reads like a utopian wish list. It’s full of inaccurate information, it’s not current. I think there’s a much better, fair and professional way to handle a feasibility study,” Wright said. “I can’t in good conscience expect anyone to take this and to vote on it as a resident of Navarre right now because they don’t have accurate information. It’s not fair to ask people to vote something when they don’t really fully comprehend what they’re voting on.”

Wright used the example of the city taking over roads in Navarre, if incorporation ever actually happens. County Attorney Tom Dannheisser said an agreement would need to be made between the new city and the county before any roads or county property became the city’s responsibility. That agreement would not necessarily happen just because Navarre was incorporated.

Eddington also said there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

“I’ve had people come to me and say ‘hey, our taxes are going to go low,’” Eddington said, noting residents would pay city and county tax. “Let these people know the taxes are not going to go down. They are going to go up, OK?”

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