MILTON — The Santa Rosa County Commission meeting on Thursday started with Pastor Kevin Nelson of Stump Springs Baptist Church saying a prayer about unity. It did not last as an open forum quickly turned to the divide over the county's handling of infrastructure and development projects.
"We are not opposed to prudent development," said Michael Bower, vice president of Save Our Soundside.
The group has attended almost every BOCC meeting for seven months, according to Bower. It has now found another resident group that it wants to work with, the Santa Rosa County Voters Against Overcrowded Roads & School (SRCVAORS).
"We're going to support their petition 100 percent," Bower said.
SRCVAORS entered a petition aiming to improve quality of life by improving and better planning infrastructure and development. It reads:
"To mitigate the damage and begin the correction process we respectfully request the commissioners to immediately:
"1. Require impact fees based on the true cost of our infrastructure.
"2. Improve impacted infrastructure before approving any more demands on the existing infrastructure.
"3. Prioritize funding to improve inadequate road and schools.
"4. Deny any rezoning requests that increase density.
"5. Deny all planned unit developments that are requesting approval.
"6. Deny all planned unit developments requesting density rezoning."
"I'm willing to sit down with them and have a discussion," Commission Chairman Sam Parker said. "But the concept of no growth ... You can't fix 20 or 30 years of growth in two years. We are working very hard to fix infrastructure issues."
Parker mentioned two projects that alone cost more than $8 million in his District 1 area. They are the connector road for Highway 90 and Hamilton Bridge Road at $5 million, and the Tiburon drainage project at $3.1 million.
Parker wants to know what these groups are going to use as a benchmark to indicate when they'll be satisfied that the infrastructure and development are equal.
Bower called for accelerated revision of the Land Development Code, plans that account for traffic and school concurrency, and opening discussion about bringing back impact fees.
"What's the solution?" Parker asked before answering his own question. "Maybe a workshop."