Islanders Want Preserve Navarre to Wait on Incorporation Vote

Posted on July 8, 2024 by Romi White

There are two groups working on separate Navarre incorporation efforts, and one wants Preserve Navarre to hold off on a vote until more information is available. Anti-incorporation advocates also say it’s premature for a non-binding referendum. 

“Why can’t they wait,” said Gary Buroker, a former president of the Navarre Beach Leaseholders during today’s Santa Rosa County Commission committee meeting. “I’m here to ask for your help today,” he said, adding, “We on Navarre Beach have been (working) on incorporation Navarre Beach…We’ve asked Preserve Navarre not to include us. They’re not pulling back. We’ve asked Rep. Rudman not to be included until we decide on (Navarre Beach) whether we want to be incorporated.”

Buroker said his group has raised $40,000 and funded a three-phase professional incorporation feasibility study. He’s expecting the second phase, which is being completed by a third-party consultant, to be presented in two months. He said the group would then ask leaseholders whether or not they want to pursue incorporation of the island.

Santa Rosa County Commission Vice Chairman James Calkins, who was acting chairman in the absence of Commission Chairman Sam Parker, said the board “fully respects” the concerns of Islanders and realizes the issue is “complicated.”

“What I’m getting from you, and what I’m getting from other folks, is that y’all need time to work on this as a group…this is something that absolutely does not need to be rushed. It needs to be a community effort, and we as a (Board of County Commissioners) will do what we can to listen to the community,” Calkins told Buroker.

Last week Rep. Joel Rudman, who represents parts of the mainland in Navarre, had asked to be added to today’s agenda but retracted the request. He still showed up, telling commissioners during public forum that he supports Preserve Navarre’s request for a non-binding referendum in November. 

Several members of Protect Navarre, an anti-incorporation group, also spoke during public forum. 

“We’re not against a vote, but we want the information before we vote,” said Chelle Concha, pointing out that voters could not make a truly informed decision using the feasibility study provided by Preserve Navarre was corrected and petitions were gathered. 

Back in May county commissioners rejected a request from Preserve Navarre for a November vote, citing false information and inaccuracies in the group’s in-house study. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Alex Andrade represents Navarre Beach and most of the U.S. 98 Corridor in South County. He has not yet responded to a request for a comment on the matter.