Zoning board members resign after voter criticism

In the fallout of a failed sales tax referendum, two of the appointees to the Santa Rosa County Zoning Board have issued their resignation following negative comments toward voters.

Jim Waite and Jeremy Reeder both made comments regarding traffic concerns on Woodbine Road Oct. 10, implying that voters objecting at the polls to a sales tax increase were saying the current traffic problems on the roadway were not an issue.

They then voted to approve a project to increase potential traffic on the roadway.

Reeder submitted his resignation, effective immediately, in an Oct. 17 email. He was initially appointed to the volunteer board in 2015 and was reappointed by Commission Chairman Sam Parker.

“I apologize to the Board of County Commissioners, Zoning Board and county staff for being a part a conversation that when edited intentionally to cut out context and all prior conversions in the almost four-hour meeting, has caused a distraction to the important work the Zoning Board is tasked with doing,” the email reads. “If our residents expect me to show them the type of reverence I hold out for the God I serve, then I’m sorry to say I’m not the right fit.”

Reeder also references threats made to him by citizens including “being dealt with by the Second Amendment or being met in a dark alley.” He wrote his comments in the Oct. 10 meeting were taken out of context.

During the Oct. 10 Zoning Board meeting, a case was presented to rezone a rural residential parcel along Woodbine Road for commercial use, likely increasing future traffic to the site on an already busy road.

Expansion of Woodbine Road from two lanes to four has been on the county radar for years and was the largest project earmarked for potential increased sales tax revenues, but the tax failed to pass Oct. 8.

The full 3 hour and 36 minute video is available for public viewing at https://santarosacofl.civicclerk.com/web/Player.aspx?id=373&key=-1&mod=-1&mk=-1&nov=0. The discussion of Woodbine Road begins at the three hours, 11 minutes mark, and video of the sales tax discussion is included in this post.

Following the comments, Commissioner Don Salter, who appointed Waite to the board in 2006, condemned Waite’s comments and said Waite expressed remorse.

In his resignation letter, Waite praised the work the board has done up to this point and thanked Salter for the opportunity. He also included suggestions for the county including implementing single six-year term limits for Zoning Board members, offering training to appointees and having legal staff attend all Zoning Board meetings.

His resignation would be effective Dec. 31, allowing him to participate in the last Zoning Board meeting for 2019.

Kemp has chosen not to resign, but he did issue an apology on Facebook Oct. 16.

“Last Thursday night was not my best or brightest moment. Simply put, my emotions got the worst of me. I have called and apologized to Chairman Parker and my nominating Commissioner, Mr. (Bob) Cole for my unnecessary comments. There is no reason or excuse for them as an adult I am responsible for them,” Kemp wrote in part.
County Commissioners will likely vote to accept or deny the resignations Monday during their regular meeting. They will also be discussing an item to govern roles, policies, procedures, application process and training for advisory boards and committees.

The meeting is scheduled for Oct. 21 at 8:30 a.m. in the board room at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton.

View Reeder resignation here 

View Waite resignation here 

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