Santa Rosa County Commissioners moved forward with turning a piece of county owned land into new athletic fields in Navarre off East Bay Boulevard Thursday, Jan. 26.
The 11-acre, L-shaped parcel is zoned for recreational park uses, but could not be used for that purpose due to being in a military airport zone.
The parcel was set aside as a protective buffer for NOLF Holley Field in 2005, but the property is in the process of being converted into a solar panel field as part of a partnership between the Navy and Gulf Power and will no longer see air traffic.
Commission Chairman Rob Williamson said the park would fill a need.
“The idea would be that we would convert this into additional athletic fields that could help take some of the pressure off NYSA, and I would also like to extend an opportunity for partnership with Commissioner [Lane] Lynchard to see if it could also relieve some of the pressure off of Tiger Point and their ball fields. We would just leave it open athletic fields with very little infrastructure.”
Lynchard said he felt the park might be too far down the road to provide any assistance the Tiger Point location.
To remove the airport zoning from the property as well as the neighboring parcels, a proposed ordinance would have to go before the Zoning Board and return to the County Commission for final approval said Planning and Zoning Director Beckie Cato.
NAS Whiting Field sent a letter to the county approving the move to remove the protective zone.
“We are in research mode right now looking into what would be necessary to make this happen. The overlay zones are written into the land development code and comprehensive plan,” she said. “So we just put together an ordinance that strikes that field from the code.”
She said there is also need for a wetlands study to determine how much of the parcel can actually be utilized.
In addition to the improvements, Cato said the property will be required to have public restrooms and road access.
“It has access from one of those neighborhood roads, but Commissioner Williamson has indicated that an easement to East Bay Boulevard would be preferred,” she said.
The county currently does not own the necessary right of way to create an easement. Cato said that may require additional purchases.
As seen in the Feb. 2 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.