The effort to incorporate Navarre took a blow recently when the organizing group failed to get enough petitions to make it onto the August primary ballot.
Navarre Area United, the political action committee that undertook an effort last year to help Navarre become its own incorporated city, fell short by about 1,200 petitions. It needed 2,842 petitions from six precincts in Santa Rosa County, and gathered about 1,600.
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"The group did not meet the required number of petitions to be placed on the August ballot," said Supervisor of Elections Tappie Villane.
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Jonathan Cole, a Navarre businessman who spearheaded the incorporation effort, said he believed the coronavirus and related economic shutdown stopped momentum the group had and played a major role in not getting enough certified petitions to get on the ballot.
"We were shooting for the referendum in August, but even before the shutdown, people were just kind of easing back," Cole told the News Journal on Friday. "The money wasn’t coming in, and then after the shutdown, we couldn’t have events and other things that we had been having great results with. We tried a few different things but we just ran out of time."
Had it been approved and put on the August ballot, the non-binding referendum would have needed at least a 60% majority vote to move to the next stage. If it passed that, state Rep. Jayer Williamson would then introduce bills in the Florida Legislature that would need to be passed before moving to the governor's desk.
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This isn't the first time Navarre residents have tried to incorporate. A similar initiative in 2014 failed, with just 44% of voters saying they'd like to see Navarre become its own city.
Cole vowed he would keep leading the effort and would shoot for another non-binding referendum again in the future.
"We’re not done. The PAC’s still going forward," he said. "We’re going to try to do some fundraising a little later and try to get the (feasibility) study done, and continue to try to get information in people’s hands and then look for a potential time to try and get the referendum on the ballot.
"It’s just a setback," he added. "Not a defeat."
Annie Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8632.