Williamson champions Calkins for Zoning Board

Candidate for Zoning Board James Calkins caught criticism Monday during the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting.

Commission Chairman Bob Cole selected Calkins as his nominee for Zoning Board, but the county commission was not unanimous in support of that decision following comments from the public.

The Zoning Board is a 10-person committee that makes decisions regarding land development code variances and special exceptions. The board makes recommendations regarding conditional uses and rezoning requests, which then go before the BOCC for a final decision.

Two of the members are appointed by each county commissioner, then voted on by the BOCC. Both of those appointees must reside in the district of the commissioner appointing them. The District 2 seat was vacated by Greg Scoville in April.

Calkins also serves as chairman of the Holley Navarre Water System (HNWS) board of directors. For that position, Calkins claims residency in Navarre, which is in District 4. According to discussion during Monday’s commission meeting, Calkins has since purchased a home in District 2.

Candidate for District 2 County Commissioner Wallis Mahute said the home was purchased from Cole’s son. She also said that the Holley Navarre Water System board has been chaotic in the past.

“Are you willing to bring this chaos to the zoning board?” she said.

Commissioner Lane Lynchard suggested that Calkins should not be appointed, but Commissioner Rob Williamson said he should be given a chance.

“We have historically given a lot of deference to the district commissioner,” Williamson said.

He said he would like to give Calkins the chance to “prove them wrong.” Calkins made a $1,000 donation to Williamson’s campaign in May 2017.

The board agreed to vote on the issue Thursday.

In other action, the board heard a request from Growing Santa Rosa Enterprises (GSE) to amend several provisions of its agreement with the county to operate the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.

One of the primary requests regarded the continued use of a restroom facility on the pier that fails to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

County Engineer Roger Blaylock said the county had given GSE information about an adequate model manufactured by a company in Michigan.

But Ken Fountain, one of GSE’s managing partners, told the commissioners his company is having difficulty finding a local business that would be willing to service that model on the pier each day, as is required by the submerged lands permit for the facility.

Each day the restroom must be taken off the pier, serviced and then returned, according to the permit requirements.

Williamson pointed out that the permit also requires the restroom to be ADA-compliant.

He also took issue with a request by GSE to expand its management agreement to include more of the parking area immediately surrounding the pier as well as the volleyball courts adjacent to the pier.

Williamson said he was not comfortable with the parking portion of the request.  He said he did not want to see the parking area blocked from public use.

Fountain explained that the request was prompted by incidents of disorderly behavior in the parking lot during which sheriff’s deputies requested that the pier management file a trespassing complaint so that an unruly individual could be removed.

“We were not sure we had the authority,” Fountain said.

Lynchard said the request made sense to him.

GSE made several other requests that did not meet opposition. These include:

  • Allow limited night access for fishermen with the True Blue Fishing Club doing tag-and-release research for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Install an additional gate on the pier north of the dune line
  • Install an ice machine in a parking lot median for use by visitors
  • Manage check-out of the county’s beach wheelchairs

Following the discussion, Williamson asked if the pier operators felt he had been unfair in his questioning, to which Fountain answered yes. He said it had been implied by others that he would be biased in his treatment of GSE.
Earlier this month, Williamson said in a Facebook post that the pier operators were “a complete disappointment, as expected.”

Cole praised the operators following the discussion.

“Just like Commissioner Williamson said, we appreciate what you’re doing. You are doing a great job out there for us,” Cole said.

The board will take its final vote on these matters Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Santa Rosa County Administrative Center Board Room at 6495 Caroline St. in Milton.

As seen in the June 14 issue of Navarre Press.

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