Commissioners Consider Beach Land Swap for Tiger Point Parcels

Posted on February 21, 2022 by Romi White

Steve Hering proposes to give Santa Rosa County four 0.3-acre parcels on U.S. 98 in Tiger Point in exchange for a Navarre Beach storefront (highlighted in green) which he currently leases from the county on a 10-year renewable lease term. As part of the deal, Hering also wants the adjacent corner lot on Gulf Boulevard, which is owned by the county (marked by the red “X” in the graphic below). If Hering gets his way, he will get a 99-year perpetual lease (which automatically renews) on both beach parcels. Graphics by Romi White.

Citizens on Monday expressed outrage over Santa Rosa County Commissioners considering a Navarre businessman’s proposal to swap four small commercial parcels he owns on U.S. 98 in Tiger Point for commercial property he currently leases from the county on Navarre Beach plus an adjacent corner lot on Gulf Boulevard.  

Local watchdog Jerry Couey cautioned commissioners against the move, considering no appraisals have been performed. 

However, District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole said he’s comfortable moving forward with voting Thursday to advertise the land swap, estimating there’s only about $30,000 difference in the parcels when Hering’s existing lease revenues are considered.

However, Couey says it’s critical for the county to consider how the current value of the beach properties are based on comparable 2020 values, and during the course of future lease negotiations that value is likely to dramatically increase. 

“They have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens to have appraisals performed before giving away or swapping any public property, especially parcels on the island,” Couey said. 

Hering currently uses the Navarre Beach storefront for a real estate office, but the parking lot is used for vendors.

But if commissioners accept his proposal, Hering says his long-term goal is to build a small hotel or upgraded commerical space on the site. He also plans to expand the vendor area into the corner lot, which he says will be used for a food truck court, suggesting the deal could “bring in substantial revenue” to the county from the 5% gross revenue the food trucks would pay. 

In exchange for both Gulf Boulevard parcels, Hering is offering up four 0.3 acres he owns on U.S. 98 in Tiger Point.

The four parcels Hering is offering (marked by the red “X”) are located on the north side of U.S. 98 west of Walmart in Tiger Point.  

Per the Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser website, the taxable value of the Tiger Point parcels are $90,657 each, which is less than the actual market value.

But if commissioners accept Hering’s proposal, the deal will remove those four vacant commercial parcels from the county tax rolls. 

Herring paid $1,267.23 per lot in property taxes for 2021. However, if those vacant parcels were developed, they would yield more in annual county tax assessments.

Additionally, although Hering’s proposal touts that his four parcels offer access to a platted county park, opponents to the proposed land swap point out there is already an existing access to the park site via Skyler Drive.

The county’s undeveloped 1.59-acre park land has an existing access  (depicted in yellow) off Skyler Drive. 

District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright said he has walked the property, which has some “low” areas. He suggested that the county could sell three of the four parcels and keep only one for access to the roughly 1.59-acre future park site.

District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker, who questioned the proposal,  says it doesn’t seem right to rush and approve the deal. Parker said he wants to get appraisals and feasibility studies done. “I think this needs more time for public awareness and input,” he said.

The board will vote Thursday on whether or not to advertise the land deal. The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. at the County Administrative Complex, located at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton.