If you have read this paper over the last few months, years or even weeks, you know what issues Navarre is facing.
Rapid growth of population, unmanaged stormwater, traffic problems, over taxed infrastructure and a steady disappearance of green spaces are a few.
But what do we do about it?
For the past five weeks we have written articles that analyze the concept of a District 4 Master Plan. We talked to successful community planners like Quint Studer, to members of the community, to the people developing this plan and to the elected officials who will be asked to implement it.
Now we ask you to get engaged in the planning process.
In our research we recognized that the problems are many, but the solutions are attainable.
We need to start with a downtown. Imagine an area in Navarre where you can just walk to shops and restaurants and entertainment. We have watched downtown Pensacola grow into a vibrant, walkable place where people of all ages want to be and businesses flourish.
Navarre can have that, and we need to start planning for it just north of U.S. Highway 98. Highway 98 is not a viable downtown center by its inherent nature, but as the Florida Department of Transportation moves forward with adding an elevated roadway, we need to move with the flow.
We also need to set clear, measurable, attainable goals toward these ends. Poor planning is not just ugly. It is not just inefficient. It is costly.
Like Quint Studer, Strong Towns and pretty much every community planning source says urban sprawl stretches dollars. Parking lots and other gaps in the picture add up to lost property tax income. Spreading means drivers have to make more trips meaning more wear on roadways over time. It costs more to make infrastructure like water, sewer, roads and stormwater conveyances reach further.
Maintaining a poorly-planned community costs more than taking the also costly long range approach to doing better.
And we have to do better.
As we have said in past editorials, now is the tipping point. We have to take a stand and hold our elected officials to it. No more spotty application of zoning. No more allowing developers to do what they please at the cost of the larger picture. We have to be ready to say with one voice “no that does not fit here.”
But for that to work, we need a plan on paper. While the idea that another “study” by the county will change anything is silly, having a unified legal document on the books is a good place to start.
Property owners have certain basic rights to develop their land, and asking the county commissioners to put a moratorium on building is not going to solve anything. Actually, it will get us all into a costly legal battle that we will ultimately lose.
The laws themselves need to evolve and change. This plan can do that, but as County Public Information Officer Brandi Whitehurst has said, it is only going to reflect what the people of District 4 ask for. If we tunnel vision on our own special projects or personal needs this plan will die as quickly as the Navarre Town Center plan died.
We implore you, look far forward to five and 10 years from now, fix the above ideas in your mind, link arms with other residents (even if you don’t always get along) and demand that we do better.
Our future depends on what we choose to do now, so attend the public meetings! Schedule will be available at www.plan4district4.com.