MILTON — The five-member Santa Rosa County Commission voted 4-1 on Monday to dismiss the 10 members they appointed to the zoning board.
Only District 2 commissioner Bob Cole voted against the recommendation by Santa Rosa County Commission Chairman Sam Parker.
Two board members, Jeremy Reeder, appointed by Parker of District 1, and Jim Waite, a 13-year veteran appointed by Don Salter of District 3, had already turned in their resignation letters after the Oct. 10 zoning board meeting.
Voters took issue with the way Reeder and Waite joked about Woodbine Road traffic in Pace not being that bad and their voting to change a 10-acre site from rural residential agriculture to highway commercial development after a sales tax referendum failed earlier this month.
Parker made the recommendation to remove them during a nearly four-minute statement he read to a packed auditorium.
By about a 2-1 margin, voters soundly defeated a penny sales tax at a special referendum Oct. 8. The new tax would have raised an estimated $182 million to make improvements to roads, drainage, public safety and recreation.
Many voters said they rejected the sales tax because they also wanted to vote on an impact fee.
"This board listened and responded to the wishes of Santa Rosa residents with a unanimous vote Oct. 10 to direct staff to take the necessary steps to begin an impact fee study as quickly as possible," Parker said. "Multiple zoning board members made disingenuous and disrespectful remarks directed at the citizens of Santa Rosa County. Other zoning board members visibly laughed at those comments. The remainder of the zoning board members present at the meeting sat idly by and appeared apathetic to what was happening."
In the zoning board meeting, members voted 8-1 to approve a rezoning request by a property owner who sought to change about 10 acres off Woodbine Road from rural residential agriculture to highway commercial development. The rezoning request has since been withdrawn.
Reeder and Waite, as well as zoning board member Scott Kemp, said during the meeting that voters must think that traffic isn't a problem on Woodbine Road because they rejected increasing the sales tax. Widening Woodbine Road would have been a priority, if the sales tax had passed.
"I made a statement that I would not support any rezoning on Woodbine Road," Waite said during the meeting. "On Tuesday (Oct. 8), I was reminded by 70% of my friends that I ... totally had no idea what I was talking about, traffic's not an issue, so I was totally wrong when I made that statement before and I have no issue with your development."
Reeder added, "I think the Santa Rosa County voters just voted that there is not a traffic problem on Woodbine Road."
Only Cole stood up for his appointees, Kemp and James Calkins.
"You never thanked them, and now you’re ready to kick them to the curb for expressing something they maybe shouldn’t have done?" Cole said. "I don’t intend to support removing either one of my appointees."
Voters against the penny sales tax rebuked Cole.
"I’m absolutely appalled at you, Mr. Cole," said Harlan Hall, a Navarre resident. "They insulted the entire citizenry of Santa Rosa County. But you’re going to stand by your little cronies through thick or thin. That is just wrong."
Eric Witt, a homebuilder, said he agreed with dismissing all of the zoning board members. His issue was how the county spent its money.
"It’s like a hog. The more you feed him, the fatter he gets," Witt said. "Let’s see where we can make cuts."
Meanwhile, Parker said the next zoning board meeting would be pushed back from Nov. 14 to Nov. 21 to allow commissioners to appoint new volunteers.
County Administrator Dan Schebler said Tallahassee law firm Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson, P.A., which handled the county’s 2004 impact fee study, would select four companies as candidates to conduct the new study.
"The study we did in 2004 is out of date," Schebler said. "We can’t reinstate it. We have to do another analysis."
Schebler estimated it would take four to six months to complete the impact fee study.
Schebler said he and county attorney Roy Andrews would select one of the candidates and recommend them to the commissioners at their next meeting on Nov. 12.