All of Santa Rosa County is growing, but south Santa Rosa is experiencing a real boom. We have two new apartment complexes coming on line soon, and down every road a lot is being cleared for one or two homes to be built. It’s a reconstruction surge and great economic recovery following the 2008 Great Recession.
We wrote in October that the availability of developable land in Santa Rosa County is helping its commercial construction numbers be competitive with neighboring and much larger Escambia County. Fiscal 2013-14 saw a $150.6 million in investment in residential construction in Santa Rosa County, the most in a single year in the county since 2006, according to the Santa Rosa County Annual Report to the Citizens. That same year saw 1,155 residential building permits issued, the most since 2007, with Pace and Holley-Navarre leading the pack.
The growth is dynamic for our economy and our county government. More people means more houses are built, bought and sold. More houses mean more property taxes are paid. More houses mean more additions such as fences, sheds, swimming pools and swimming pool enclosures.
More building also means more potential for stormwater drainage issues and the resultant flooding. More people means new businesses will open to serve the ‘more’ and more local workers will be needed to meet this demand. More residents mean more gas tax money, more sales tax money; it just means more!
But there is a down side to the ‘more’. More cars on the road mean more necessity for frequent road repairs. A crowded U.S. Highway 98 probably means more accidents, requiring more first responders. More people can bring more crime, requiring more deputies. More units and houses mean a larger load on our utility support requirements especially our water supply and the water company’s ability to be able to handle the treatment of it. We will need more electricity to power homes and businesses, cell towers, natural gas and garbage services. We still will also require a viable recycling service.
In October, County Commissioner Don Salter attributed the county’s continued growth partly to its highly rated public school system. “New residents mean new customers for somebody,” he said. Precisely.
More people with children means our schools, which are already bursting at the seams, will need more classrooms and teachers and substitute teachers. And those additional teachers and support personnel will join the already crowded bloody 98.
When you have a county as diverse and scenic as Santa Rosa, ‘more’ will come – good and bad. As a county, we must be willing to pay for ‘more’. While the revenues go up with ‘more’, so do the expenses to support ‘more’.