Nelson withdraws from beach ownership bill

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson has withdrawn his support for legislation that would give Navarre Beach residents fee simple title ownership of their property.

Nelson initially agreed to cosponsor the bill with senator Marco Rubio earlier this year, but formally withdrew that support Oct. 23 amid criticism of possible development of the beach.

In a statement from his office Nelson indicated that the reopening of Navarre Pass, a waterway connecting Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico, was his reason for withdrawing.

“The Air Force has made it clear that reopening Navarre Pass would interfere with its testing and training missions. The legislation filed earlier this year doesn’t go far enough to prevent future cutting of the pass,” the statement reads.

Currently residents of Santa Rosa and Escambia County beaches do not own their land but instead lease it from the county. They pay yearly lease fees in addition to property taxes. Under the bill, SB 1073, property would be conveyed to those leaseholders.

An identical bill was passed by the House of Representatives, brought forward by congressman Matt Gaetz.

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