At the first stop on his third annual listening tour, Board of County Commissioners Chairman Rob Williamson took the opportunity to chastise the Holley By the Sea homeowners association in Navarre for its lack of drainage infrastructure.
During the informal July 6 roundtable at Tiger Point Community Center in Gulf Breeze, Williamson, District 4 commissioner, told a dozen constituents that Holley By the Sea should be applying its assessment money to stormwater drainage issues.
“It really drives me crazy when I hear Holley by the Sea talking about how commissioners haven’t been doing a good job holding public works’ feet to the fire or making sure the drainage ditches are cleaned out, when I see Holley by the Sea with millions in reserves,” he said. “They have charged an unbelievable amount for an annual assessment, and they have spent zero money maintaining the stormwater drainage easements that they own, and they own quite a few of them.”
Holley by the Sea board president Yvonne Harper told Navarre Press that stormwater infrastructure is a county function.
“It is Commissioner Williamson’s responsibility, as well as the full board, to ensure public works has the resources needed to maintain county drainage easements,” she said. “He speaks about the assessment; however, although he lives in HBTS, he does not pay the assessment, and does not pay property tax.”
“If he took the time to become knowledgeable on HBTS conservation easements, he would know these properties are strictly governed by Army Corps wetland regulations,” Harper continued. “If he took the time to read HBTS governing documents, he would know the assessment is to pay for the common area, i.e., the recreation center. However, it seems he would rather cast blame instead of taking responsibility and leading.”
The chairman’s remarks came during a discussion of flood mitigation efforts, a central topic of dialogue at the meeting.
Williamson said he felt communities across the county were tired of endless discussion about flooding problems, and instead craved actionable solutions. That means solid policy guidance by commissioners, he said, and specific plans at the executive level.
“I’m optimistic that my county administrator and staff are going to let us know: ‘This is what we’re currently doing, and this is the plan moving forward including additional resources that are going to be part of this budget that would help us seek measurable improvement,’” he said.
The key to solving the county’s flood-related problems, Williamson emphasized, is operational ability. He stated that he’d like to see public works efforts bolstered by investment into equipment and manpower.
“Operationally, I think we need to dedicate at least two crews there,” he said. In addition, he’d like to see a review of land development codes and ordinances related to enforcement, as well as investment into capital projects.
Wastewater in sound
Williamson also addressed concerns about the piping of treated wastewater into Santa Rosa Sound. Both the Navarre Beach Utilities wastewater treatment plant on Santa Rosa Island and the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority facility servicing Pensacola Beach use the sound for this purpose.
“I’m in favor, first and foremost, of (eliminating the practice of) disposal of effluent into the sound,” Williamson said. He remarked that all of the approximately $12 million Santa Rosa expects to receive from the third wave of RESTORE Act funds should be dedicated to projects that would improve water quality and restore the Santa Rosa Sound.
“Money will start flowing in the next 24 months toward these projects,” he said.
Williamson said the county was in the process of designing a plan to move treated effluent from the facility on the island across the sound. He said the project’s $6 million to $8 million price tag could be partially met through RESTORE Act funds.
“I’m fighting very hard to get $3.2 million for each county,” he asserted. “We put up $3 million of our own, $3 million of that, we just got that problem solved.”
“That’s a huge deal for Santa Rosa County,” he added. “I’m very concerned about that.”
Tiger Point Golf Club
Responding to a comment about the fate of golf properties in Gulf Breeze, Williamson said the struggling state of the golf industry is raising new land-usage questions for communities built around the sport.
“I don’t know anyone my age or younger who plays golf on a regular basis anymore,” he said. “We need to find a way to answer and provide for the needs of what today’s families want.”
The Gulf Breeze City Council approved a deal July 3 to sell the former driving range at Tiger Point Golf Club to Texas-based home construction company D.R. Horton for $1.5 million. The city has owned the club since 2012, and is now considering alternate uses for the vacant west course – including a housing development or a new school.
Williamson suggested it would now be reasonable to ask the city for a comprehensive vision of development in the area.
The listening tour has become an annual tradition for Williamson. The board chairman said the meetings allow him to bring items of concern directly from citizens of all districts to the Board of County Commissioners for inclusion in the annual budget.
“This is something I’ve been doing since my first year in office,” he said. “It came from knocking on doors and people telling me, ‘Hey, if you’re going to be making decisions in our district, we would like you to have some meetings in our district.’”
Williamson’s tour will take him across the county through August.
District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson’s listening tour locations and dates as of publication:
District 1 – Pace Community Center
5976 Chumuckla Highway in Pace
Monday, Aug. 7, at 5:30 p.m.
District 2 – Milton Library
5541 Alabama Street in Milton
Thursday, July 27, at noon
District 3 – Jay Library
5259 Booker Lane in Jay
Tuesday, Aug. 8, from 7:30 to 9 a.m.
District 4 – Visitors Information Center
8543 Navarre Parkway in Navarre
Thursday, Aug. 10, from 7 to 8:30 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 10, from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
As seen in the July 13 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.