Pensacola News-Journal – January 10, 2021

Taxation without representation ended in 1776, or so we thought. Here we are 245 years later and three commissioners in north Santa Rosa have voted to remove our drinking water protections. Are they violating their oath of office by desecrating this most sacred part of our constitution?

If you live on the south side of Santa Rosa County the message to you is this – your tax money is welcome, but your voice is not. Last year we said no to new taxes until Impact Fees were implemented for safety and infrastructure. We said it loud and clear in a 70-30 vote. Yet, it took months for these same commissioners to agree to a study on Impact Fees.

With mass development and clear EPA violations: clear cutting and de-watering of wetlands, the citizens demanded an amended Land Development Code and strengthened tree ordinance. The county agreed to fast track the tree ordinance and revise the LDC, having us submit ideas for over a year and then promptly ignoring them. We asked to slow development approvals due to flooding and stormwater run-off. Instead, the process was automated so approvals could be expedited.

You see, we just pay the taxes. We are nothing more than a convenient source of revenue that has no voice or representation. Our pleas for environmental, safety and infrastructure protections have been ignored. The pattern is overwhelmingly clear: slow-walk what south Santa Rosa wants; fast-track what south Santa Rosa is against.

Layering it on, we have now been asked to swallow the proverbial “poison pill.”  Commissioners Cole, Parker and newcomer Calkins voted last month to remove protections for our public water system. These commissioners, who’s very own water supply will not be affected, voted to remove protections from our drinking water. They have proven for years that the environment isn’t a priority for them, even if it destroys the revenue streams we, and surrounding counties, depend on. But never in our wildest dreams would we have considered such irresponsible, corrupt, and incompetent votes against the health and well-being of the very citizens that float this county.

Is it possible to add insult to injury?  With our three northside commissioners, you bet it is. SOS members and other groups around the county have written countless letters to the commissioners on this topic. Yet those letters received no response, nor even acknowledgment from the three commissioners that voted against us. Due to word limitations, we have only included excerpts from several letters. To date, not a single letter has received a response:

  • “WOW, you really don’t care about residents in the south end. It’s only our drinking water at stake here, our property values, our way of life, our health, our future. Voting to remove protection of our wellfields is a nail in our coffins.” – Elizabeth Pavelick, Gulf Breeze
  • “Stop destroying our county! Protect our water resources!” – Deborah Mozert, Gulf Breeze
  • “We have learned that the quantity of water to South Santa Rosa is already questionable based on the July, 2020, Capacity Analysis Report, so please do not allow this amendment which could endanger the quality of the water as well. You all are our best and last line of defense against actions such as this which could endanger our health. If the quality of our drinking water is lost our property values will be lost as well.” – Dara Hartigan, Gulf Breeze
  • “You voted against the best interests of 86,000 Santa Rosa residents in favor of one property owner – knowing you were violating your oath of office?  Every public water system in the U.S is covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), regulated by the EPA. The same .agency that put our water protections in place over a decade ago based on science, extensive research, data collection and analysis. Santa Rosa residents deserve an explanation of the new scientific research and studies the county performed that assisted in your decision.”  – Bob & Sandy Dimick, Gulf Breeze
  • “As a taxpayer, retired senior naval officer and a South Santa Rosa County concerned citizen, I am aghast by recent media reports of continued favoritism by the majority of the BOCC to individual political cronies to the detriment of the well-being, property, quality of life and health and safety of every man, woman and child in South Santa Rosa County. I write today to address the non-research-based plan to intrude on the well-field protection zones, which protect drinking water supplies to South Santa Rosa County. These well-field protection zones were based on a USEPA-funded, science-based research demonstrating that the established protections were in the citizenship’s best interest to ensure the quality of drinking water supply.” – Michael Brower, Gulf Breeze
  • “These wells provide drinking water to 51% of the county’s residents who depend solely on this water, and it is beyond imagination that any alteration in the outright protection of this area would even be discussed. Concerted time and effort was expended by the Wellfield Protection Committee to set this up years back. To reverse these protections would be an outright travesty.” – Carmen Reynolds, Navarre
  • “Leave the laws as they are, they are there to protect us and future generations. Changing them would only benefit someone looking for financial gain. Mass contamination of ground water is not new. We have all read the articles about citizens being poisoned, riddled with cancer and other diseases. Is the county willing to risk the health and safety of their citizens for someone else’s financial gain? – Larry Russell, Navarre

There’s a growing call on the south end that the status quo just isn’t working anymore. South Santa Rosa is a separate land mass, a different environment, and residents that want to protect our natural resources. Many are calling for change. They wonder why we continue sending our money across the bridge, where three commissioners ignore our requests and vote against our health, safety and infrastructure. While we don’t yet know where these calls for change will lead, there’s no doubt this vote was the catalyst.

Save Our Soundside Board includes Dara Hartigan, Sandy Dimick, Elizabeth Pavelick and Kendall Creighton.