Love them or hate them, more signs in the same style as the Navarre Beach welcome sign may be coming to Navarre along State Road 87.
The new signage is part of a proposed beautification project along the road that welcomes many tourists to the Navarre area.
The improvements would cost an estimated $525,000. The Florida Department of Transportation has awarded the county a grant for the project, and maintenance costs will come from the tourist development budget.
Melvin Engineering has been selected to design the project, and the company presented their initial idea to the Board of County Commissioners Monday.
The new signs included in the proposal would be designed by county tourism marketing firm Paradise Advertising and would bear the same coloring and style as the existing signs on Navarre Beach. These signs drew both criticism and praise from locals shortly after their installation earlier this year.
The proposed signs would likely include another welcome sign closer to U.S. Highway 98 southbound on 87 and a “thank you for visiting sign” on the northbound side.
Melvin Engineering also recommended moving the existing welcome sign near the East River Boat Ramp to the west side of the road. Commission Chairman and Navarre representative Rob Williamson said he was in favor of the move because it would make the sign more visible while remaining near what is considered the beginning of the Navarre area.
In addition to the signs, the medians along two portions of 87 would receive new plants and irrigation.
The proposed species of flowers, trees and shrubs include purple pixie lorotalum, lomandra breeze, perennial peanut, Muskogee crepe myrtle, dwarf Walter’s viburnum, pink muhly grass, knockout rose, saw palmetto, lantana and wax myrtle.
Two varieties of palm trees have also been selected. Though commissioners have criticized palms in the past, Williamson and other commissioners said they would be appropriate near the beach.
The project is scheduled to start by March 2018 with completion set for September 2018.
In other action, commissioners set dates for narrowing down from 11 to one the list of potential future operators of the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, the restaurant and pier shop.
Commissioners agreed to have a short list of three to five proposals selected and approved at the Sept. 11 and 14 regularly scheduled meetings, but none of them made a clear indication of any preference between the 11 applications under their review.
Those applications include two of the previous operators, local restauranteurs and business leaders and less familiar names.
Commissioner Bob Cole said it is important that the public understand it is appropriate and legal for individual commissioners to speak with the applicants before the September meeting.
“I’d just like it on the record- I know the county attorney isn’t here today- there is nothing unethical, no violation that we are breaking in discussing individually with any of these applicants. I just want to make sure that is clear,” he said.
Williamson agreed with Cole’s stance. He said asking questions ahead of time will allow commissioners to clear up questions that may not have been answered by the initial applications, including financing of proposed changes.
But Commissioner Lane Lynchard said it was his personal policy not to speak to applicants when a matter is pending before the board, regardless of what issue it may be.
“We don’t have a local blackout period, but I have always taken the approach that I don’t speak to applicants or people who send in a request for proposal between the time that the notice goes out and the time we review,” he said.
Cole said he agreed, but with so many applicants they may run into one another on the street.
State transparency laws governing public officials, known as Sunshine Laws, do not permit elected officials to meet with one another outside of a public forum, but that rule would not apply to a single commissioner meeting with an individual applicant, said Cole.
Once the short list is decided on, those applicants would make presentations the afternoon of Oct. 9 to the board that elaborate on their applications as well as where the capital will come from to finance their plans.
As seen in the Aug. 24 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.