Viewpoint: Disagreeing isn’t attacking

From: Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh:

A one-sided opinion piece was published very recently about Escambia County’s project to acquire the property in Beulah Known as OLF 8.  The publisher would not allow me a written rebuttal.

Here are the key facts missing from that piece:

— The jobs-generating project at OLF 8 was the #1 economic development project selected by the County’s Restore Act Committee

–The jobs-generating project for OLF 8 was conceived, voted upon, and financial commitments were made  long before I was elected to the Board.

Our triumph gulf coast application, for which we stand to receive $30 Million dollars, creates at least 1,000 good-paying jobs with the OLF 8 property including quality of life improvements, biking trails, restaurants and retail amenities—all of which benefit Beulah and the region.  

— I support this project because we must be good financial stewards with this soon-to-be county-owned resource; staying in the running for our $30 Million-dollar grant while intelligently developing OLF 8 is how we demonstrate this.

–The county expended $17.3 million dollars to acquire OLF 8 to create jobs–not for building “town-centers” or for sourcing land to benefit residential developers.

—I made the motion to sell 100 acres to NFCU for a market price plus the commitment of 300 jobs–so we only need to create a minimum of 700 more good jobs at OLF 8 to stay in the running for the $30 Million triumph grant!

— I made the motion to have staff create an RFP for master planning OLF 8 that:  1.) listens to residents, 2.) captures the maximum amount of value for this land, and 3.) stays within the guidelines of our Triumph grant request.

These are the facts missing from Sunday’s editorial.

I’ve attacked nobody in my disagreement amid concerns over what is being planned for OLF 8— despite this baseless claim being printed about me.

I simply feel residential development is inappropriate at this site—not because I have any dislike of residential development, but because more than 1200 apartments, condos, and homes are currently under construction within walking distance from NFCU’s campus already. The area in and around the proposed Beulah Interchange now has roughly 7,000 residential units recently completed, currently in construction, in planning, or going through development review…

Our roads and infrastructure simply cannot handle any more of this residential development! This is what my constituents are telling me, and I am hearing them loud and clear!

A final pressing concern that I have heard in listening to my constituents is this:

While there are many progressive, urban, mixed-used developments and town center concepts put out as examples of what could be built out on OLF 8–not all those concepts are necessarily applicable to Beulah. 

Beulah is a rural, suburban bedroom community desperately trying to retain its rural charm and character despite the growth that is engulfing it rapidly.  (I am working to help with this via a citizens’ committee and a regional master plan.)

Many constituents simply DO NOT want a big-city styled Mall-development with apartments and condos built on OLF 8 making traffic worse—And I agree with these constituents!

To agree with my constituents that do not want to build a “mini-city” on Beulah’s OLF 8 isn’t an attack.

Far from attacking anyone or insulting citizens (which I don’t do), I’m doing my job, listening to measured voices of reason from constituents like me that live right across the street from OLF 8.

I’m taking the county-wide, broad-view perspective on this issue.


Jeff Bergosh


Escambia Board of County Commissioners