Zoning members out; Parker accused of intimidation

The Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners voted  4-1 Monday morning to fire the entire Zoning Board, a citizen committee appointed by commissioners to hear cases for exceptions to the Land Development Code. Three of those appointees found themselves in hot water after, what Commission Chairman Sam Parker called, “disingenuous and disrespectful” comments during their Oct. 10 zoning board meeting.

In the meeting, members Jim Waite, Jeremy Reeder and Scott Kemp made statements against voters who opposed the half-cent sales tax increase on the Oct. 8 ballot.

The lone opposition to the ouster was Commissioner Bob Cole calling it “unfair” to dismiss the entire board for one mistake. Leading the charge was Parker saying their statements did not reflect the sentiments of the commission, nor were they acting as servant leaders to the citizens.

Now, Parker is facing allegations of his own after defunct Zoning Board member James Calkins, representing District 2, alleged he was intimidated via text message.

Following his removal from the zoning board Monday morning, he immediately shared with reporters a screenshot of an Aug. 8 text message received from Parker’s cell phone. He said the message was an attempt by Parker to influence his vote on an upcoming case. Calkins said Parker also called the other board members about the case, something Calkins said had not been done for any other item going before the Zoning Board.

Submitted screenshot

The text message reads “I forgot to call you and let you know that item #7 2019-R-035 is my project [winking smiley face emoji] Angie Jones is there representing me.”

2019-R-035 was a rezoning request to allow a roughly 1.7 acres of residential land in Milton, owned by SCP Properties which Parker is a partial owner of, to be increased in density to allow construction of two duplexes. Attorney Angie Jones was Parker’s legal representative for the project.

Calkins claims he was intimidated by the message and felt it was meant to suggest he vote in favor of the rezoning.

When asked by this reporter about the text, Parker said he did send the message and reached out to the other Zoning Board members by phone. He said his attorney, Jones, advised him to, in full transparency, disclose to the board his ownership of the property prior to the Aug. 8 meeting and to offer to answer any questions.

Parker put his name and contact information on the variance application which was provided for public viewing and in the documentation for the zoning board.

“The only time I can recall having a conversation about an item with a Zoning Board member prior to a vote is this case, and that was to let them know this was a company that I own,” Parker said.

During the Aug. 8 meeting, Calkins made the motion to approve the rezoning after the board discussed potential impacts to neighbors. The board unanimously recommended approval to the Board of County Commissioners.

When the Commission took up the issue for final vote Aug. 22, Parker disclosed his financial interest in the matter and recused himself from the vote. He also filed disclosure paperwork required by state law. No one from the public spoke in objection to the item, and the commission approved the rezoning.

Parker questioned why Calkins only disclosed the message and stated it was intimidation two months after it was sent and immediately after Parker led a vote to remove Calkins from his political appointment.

Parker said it is also worth mentioning that June 7, 2018 Calkins donated $1,000 to his reelection campaign, seven days before Parker was to vote for or against Calkins’s appointment to the Zoning Board. Yet, Parker voted against that appointment.

“He is trying to be vindictive and make suggestions that he knows to be inaccurate,” Parker said.

View Jeremy Reeder resignation letter here

View Jim Waite resignation letter here 

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