MILTON — Blue Water Holdings SRC Inc. and Santa Rosa Soils LLC owners have sent a letter to Santa Rosa County officials telling them they could buy their land this week or suffer the consequences.
The companies own 158.2 vacant acres northeast of the intersection of State Road 87 and Interstate 10 in East Milton and have a Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit to dig a landfill for construction and demolition debris.
It would sit on the sand and gravel aquifer north of U.S. Highway 90 and east of Jeff Ates Road near where water utilities in South Santa Rosa get an estimated 54 percent of their drinking water.
The $12 million sales offer to the county for the land, equal to $75,834 per acre, and the threat of having the drinking water contaminated by a waste site angered all five Santa Rosa County commissioners, environmentalists and water company officials. They unanimously rejected the offer.
“I certainly don’t want to see a C&D pit sitting on top of our aquifer,” Commissioner Bob Cole said at the board's meeting Monday.
"I don’t want to see anything happen to our water supply,” Commissioner Dave Piech added.
Commission Chairman Sam Parker called the offer “legal terrorism.”
“We tell you we’re going to do something bad unless you pay us money,” Parker said. “That not only seems immoral but improper, as well.”
Blue Water Holding SRC owner James “Jimmy” Young Jr. had Pensacola attorney Edsel Matthews Jr. deliver the letter April 4 and demand an April 23 deadline. It also included giving the county the DEP permit that it sued the county to get. No company representatives attended Monday's meeting.
Commissioners took heart that the state has strict regulations regarding the development of C&D pits to prevent environmental contamination. That makes development expensive. Plus, the rectangular parcel lacks access from nearby Jeff Ates Road and U.S. 90 for dump trucks, semitrailers and other heavy vehicles to travel. That adds even more money to the development cost.
The offer was split, with $7.5 million headed to Bluewater Holdings for the property and $4.5 million directed to Santa Rosa Soils for the soil or subsurface rights.
The DEP’s permit would allow the owners to excavate to a depth of 70 feet and remove 9.3 million cubic yards of soil. That’s enough dirt to fill the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California, nearly 12 times over. The DEP also demanded 2 million cubic yards of soil remain to cover the waste dumped there.
Rob Williamson, executive director of the Fairpoint Regional Utility System, said he appreciated the county protecting drinking water. Williamson said he remembered dealing with Blue Water Holdings while on the county's zoning board.
“There is nothing more important than the purity of our water sources,” Williamson said. “I 100 percent support the commissioners standing up to this legal and environmental terrorism.”
Kyle Holley, one of three county residents who helped develop the county's Wellfield Protection Zones ordinance, also commended the commissioners’ decision.
“I think I have felt no more strongly on any issue than this one,” Holley said. “There is so much as stake for our future. We’re on the verge of really building a brand for Santa Rosa County that’s built on clean air, clean water and solid planning.”