The rules of engagement are taking shape for revival of the Navarre incorporation effort, even if information on what that will look like is hard to come by.
Navarre Area United Political Action Committee (PAC) leader Jonathan Cole went before the Board of County Commissioners Monday to set the parameters for a petition effort. If successful, the petition could lead to Commissioners allowing the issue of making Navarre a city onto the ballot in 2020.
This is the second PAC to form with the goal of creating a city after a ballot initiative failed to pass in 2014. That effort included a roughly $38,000 feasibility study
Unanswered questions gave commissioners like Don Salter pause. Navarre Area United has yet to expend funds for the feasibility study into how a city might function in Navarre.
“Shouldn’t you be doing the feasibility study before you ask to put something on the referendum?” Salter asked.
Cole pointed out that feasibility studies can be expensive.
“People before they want to write a check—even if they support it– they want to see a tangible means that this is going forward. The (ballot) referendum kind of represents that stake in the ground,” he said.
To date Santa Rosa County Election Office records show the PAC has raised $3,000 total, all of which was donated by two members of the PAC. Expenditures to date included $228 for website hosting and $500 to Cole’s company for social media consulting.
Cole said the website has not gone live yet, and the PAC’s Facebook page had yet to make any posts as of Tuesday.
Salter asked if any public meetings or public outreach had been done.
Cole said no. He said they plan to do those meetings after the petition process and feasibility study were completed.
Commission Chairman Sam Parker said he is concerned voters would be signing onto something without having all the facts.
District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech, who represents Navarre, spoke little on the matter. He pointed out that they were only considering the petition rules at this time.
In an earlier meeting, Commissioners suggested mirroring the state requirements for a citizen led ballot initiative which call for 8% of voters.
Cole requested that the proposed petition requirement be 8% of those voters that cast a ballot in the last presidential election rather than the total number of registered voters in Navarre.
Piech and the rest of the board rejected that request.
The distinction will likely more than double the number of signatures required for the petition to 2,259 signatures based on 2016 registrations. The number may be higher as the Board has opted to have the requirement based on voter registration numbers as of July 1, 2019.
The commissioners also added the stipulation that the petition must receive signatures from 8% of registered voters in each of the precincts included in the map. This distinction could mean Holley is excluded from the incorporation.
Lifetime Holley resident Donna Harvell told Commissioners Monday she was blindsided by the effort to incorporate Holley into the proposed city limits.
“There are a lot of concerns in Holley that the new effort to incorporate Navarre is going to try to annex Holley,” she said.
She said Holley has been its own distinct place for 200 years, and that the majority of residents do not want to be included in the incorporation based on concerns voiced in previous incorporation efforts. The 2014 effort left voting precinct 10 out of its efforts based on Holley resident’s objections.
“We are a separate community, and we always have been. I am just putting it on the records that we do not want to be a part of this,” Harvell said.
The PAC will pay for certifying the petitions.
Parker said if the petitions do meet muster, he would like to see the issue go to the general election ballot rather than the 2020 primary ballot as requested.
“We have a higher turnout historically,” he said.
Commissioners are set to vote on the petition requirements Thursday. If it did eventually pass on the ballot, the effort would still be far from over.
Incorporating Navarre into a city will have to be decided at the state level. Rep. Jayer Williamson would be tasked with drafting legislation based on a feasibility study and proposed city charter. He would then have to work that legislation through the state House and Senate and eventually secure approval from Gov. Ron DeSantis to create a new city.
But Williamson has said he wants a clear demonstration of public support before going forward with the effort. That means a ballot initiative securing at least 60% of the vote Cole said.
“For the most part, the best way we have to ascertain the will of the people is to go to the ballot box,” Cole said.
As seen in the July 11 issue of Navarre Press.
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