Hotel, RVs planned for Navarre Beach Marine Park

Despite being a source of contention with locals, the only commercial property in Navarre Beach Marine Park may see construction of a new hotel, RV parking, restaurant and more according to county records.

But to move forward, the plans will have to go before the Board of County Commissioners for a vote Oct. 25.

Property on Navarre Beach is “owned” through a system of 99-year lease agreements with Santa Rosa County. Land development codes and the lease for this property have earmarked it for the construction of a marina, but it has sat vacant.

Planning and Zoning Director Shawn Ward confirmed that plans are moving forward to potentially change the property’s future use.

“The lease for this piece of property allows for a marina, wet and dry boat storage, a restaurant, any thing that would be needed to support a marina,” Ward said. “The lease amendment would allow for a restaurant, RVs, kayak rentals and a hotel.”

The land is only commercially zoned property on the beach located east of the Navarre Beach Causeway. It is past the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station and picnic pavilions in the Navarre Beach Marine Park on the northern side of Gulf Boulevard abutting Santa Rosa Sound.

The parcel is roughly 5.7 acres jointly owned by several individuals including Pensacola attorney Charles Liberis, doing business as Shoreline Developers of Florida, LLC.

Conceptual site plans submitted to the county include a multi-story hotel at the south end of the property with 27 RV sites for over night stays. The plan also includes a new dock with kayaks and stand up paddle boards for rent.  Along the water a marine store and restaurant would be neighbored by a pool and club house. The plan includes a stormwater treatment pond as well.

There is a potential alternative plan that includes boat storage, a boat launch and an additional dock with wet slips.

To move forward however, the potential buyer will need to get approval of an amendment to the lease agreement with the county allowing for the new use. The buyer is NOBC, LLC registered to Norman McLean of Santa Rosa Beach.

Attempts to sell the property have gone on for years with residents and commissioners debating whether the land should be brought under county ownership for conservation or allowed to be developed. The parcel is currently surrounded by conservation uses on all sides as part of the marine park.

A plan for preserving the property fell through back in April after a joint deal between the nonprofit Trust for Public Land and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) was abandoned. The idea had been to use unspent Natural Resource Damage Assessment grant funds with the intention of transferring ownership of the purchased land to Santa Rosa County.

However, other projects utilizing the grants came back at higher price tags, and the Trust, at the direction of FDEP, gave up its option to purchase the land.
Prior to that in 2017, potential sale and development of condominiums on the property stirred up public outcry as Navarre Beach residents called for the land to remain vacant and natural like the surrounding marine park. Those developers were faced with a lack of support from the county commissioners, who would have to approve a lease amendment to allow the project. The concept languished and after failing to submit plans the developers lost option to purchase the property.

A public petition calling for the land to be traded by the county for another parcel gained 2,200 signatures, but that plan has also failed to gain traction.

The commissioners will meet Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Santa Rosa County Administrative Center Board Room at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton to discuss the proposed lease amendment and make a final vote.

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