Escambia County

Fees Simple bill passed U.S. House committee

June 28, 2017

On Tuesday, June 27, the House Committee on Natural Resources favorably reported H.R. 2370, the Escambia County Land Conveyance Act. The bill, authored by Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01), would give leaseholders in Santa Rosa Island the option to acquire fee simple titles to their land, and will soon come to a vote before the full House.

In 1947, the federal government transferred land that was part of the Santa Rosa Island National Monument to Escambia County. Since then, residents of Santa Rosa Island have been ineligible to own their land; they can only lease it. At first, businesses and residents of Santa Rosa Island paid lease fees, but not property taxes. Since then, however, the rules changed; residents are now required to pay both lease fees and property taxes.

“Residents of Santa Rosa Island have suffered under double taxation for years,” said Rep. Gaetz. “My bill will help lift this unfair tax burden, and will finally give Santa Rosa Island residents the ability to obtain titles to their property. As a Republican, I believe land ownership is a cornerstone of the American dream — and now, for Santa Rosa Island residents, it’s finally within reach.”

H.R. 2370 would require Escambia County, within two years, to turn over to Santa Rosa County the land that it owns there, eliminating the confusion around county land ownership. It would also require Escambia County to preserve the areas of the conveyed monument land that are dedicated for conservation, preservation, public recreation access, and public parking.

Previous legislation on this topic has been introduced in past sessions of Congress with no success. With a companion to Congressman Gaetz’s bill having been introduced in the Senate by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), however, residents of Santa Rosa Island have reason to be optimistic. “This is a team effort on the part of federal, state, and local governments,” Gaetz said. “This is how legislation is supposed to work. I am happy to hear that the bill will come to a vote soon, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to make this long-anticipated goal a reality at last.”

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  • Arman July 8, 2017 at 6:48 am

    Please explain to me why it is good business to give away millions of dollars’ worth of property, especially just before the leases come up for re-negotiation where the property owner stands a good chance of getting a better return on their property? What businessman in their right mind would do this?

    The leaseholders agreed to the deal with the full knowledge that it was a lease and not a purchase. If current leaseholders do not want to pay taxes on the improvements on the leased land they should simply sell their interest. I doubt they will have any problems selling.

    The beach is the property of the people of Escambia County. It is not in our best interest to give away this very valuable property. Vote NO on this very bad bill for the people of Escambia County.

  • C R Pohlmann July 7, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    When Fee Simple Title passes the House and Senate and the bill is signed by President Trump then Escambia and Santa Rosa County can do what they want to do with their land. As it is now the 4.5 miles known as Navarre Beach is Government land leased to Escambia and sub leased to Santa Rosa County. The residents do not own their land and do not have a deed to their land and are being taxed with property taxes and lease fees. The law is very old since 1946 and needs to be changed to Fee Simple Title like Okaloosa Island did years ago. Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach need to catch up!!
    Santa Rosa County has NO INTENETIONS of annexing the western half of Santa Rosa Island (Pensacola Beach). Escambia County has not provided law enforcement, fire/rescue and EMS services for many years on Navarre Beach. Santa Rosa County provides these services as I understand it. Escambia County doesn’t own Santa Rosa Island the Federal Government does. Remember it is leased to Escambia then sub leased to Santa Rosa. The Fee Simple bill will lift the leases and transfer the land to Escambia and Escambia will have up to 2 years to transfer the 4.5 miles of land known as Navarre Beach to Santa Rosa. This transfer in my opinion will happen soon after the Fee Simple billl passes and the President sings the bill because Escambia as I understnd it is missing out on all the property taxes for all of Portifinio condos which is alot of revenue for Escambia County

  • Milton Henke July 7, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Matt, Hope you have compared the number of votes on the beach to those off the beach. In a couple of years the beach will be a private preserve with very little access for the other taxpayers in your district. I am sure those taxpayers will be very appreciative of your consideration of the beach living taxpayers.

  • gigi July 7, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    no one should be allowed to build/live on beach. If it is public land for all citizens then keep it open to ALL citizens. That includes condos and hotels

  • Dr. Frank Sansone June 30, 2017 at 2:48 am

    This is basically a land grab from the public bestowed upon Escambia County to protect and support. This is not double taxation. The taxes are on the property on the public land , a large house or condo, on land that is leased to the resident and owner of the house. They are fortunate to have this prime location. Land leases are quite common in the U.S. My parents bought there first house in Maryland but leased the land from the prior owner until he decided to sell it years later. I lived on water front cottage in Pennsylvania and paid taxes on cottage and leased land. Eventually paid taxes on land as well while leasing. THIS SANTA ROSA ISLAND LAND SHOULD NOT BE TRANSFERRED. IT BELONGS TO US CITIZENS AND THE COUNTY SHOULD BENEFIT AND SUPPORT THE ISLAND WITH IT.

  • Mike whitehead June 29, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    It’s amazing to me that anyone would support giving away millions of dollars worth of land. Every leaseholder went into this deal knowing that it was a lease not a purchase. The tax implications may have changed but giving the land away is insane. Anyone who doesn’t want to pay taxes on the improvements should simply sell their interest. There is a robust market for single family homes on the Gulf.

  • Richard Hawkins June 28, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    I’ve never understood the reasoning behind beach leases. But I have a question, do property taxes currently apply to improvements only and not the location? That would weaken the double taxation argument.

  • CJ Lewis June 28, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    The next logical move after all the above is done would be for Santa Rosa County to begin the process to annex the western half of Santa Rosa Island (“Pensacola Beach”) ensuring it is all within the geographic boundaries of Santa Rosa County. Doing so would greatly simply land use planning and the provision of services to include public safety because Escambia County would no longer be required to drive through Santa Rosa County to provide law enforcement, fire/rescue and EMS services in what is now essentially an island of Escambia County surrounded by Santa Rosa County.