Mar 18 2015
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL-01) today offered legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, to allow Escambia County, Florida, the ability to provide the option to convey certain property on Santa Rosa Island that has been leased to leaseholders on the island.
Ownership of Santa Rosa Island has changed hands numerous times between the federal government and local counties. Most recently, in 1947, the federal government deeded interest in the portion of the island not contained in the Gulf Islands National Seashore back to Escambia County, Florida with the caveat that the county could only lease the land or return it to the federal government. Shortly after Escambia County took custody of the island, they began offering to lease the property to businesses and homeowners who would pay a lease fee, but not be charged property taxes. In the years since, courts have allowed leaseholders to be assessed property taxes on the leased property in addition to the improvements and lease fees already being paid.
“Santa Rosa Island residents should have title to properties they are already taxed on, and this bill intends to remove obstacles the government has put up in the way of this,” Rubio said. “With the input of officials in the region and impacted members of the community, we've developed this solution to provide people with options to the land so they can move on with their lives.”
“This is a fairness issue,” said Miller. “This legislation will help to ensure that leaseholders currently paying taxes and living and working on Santa Rosa Island have the choice to attain title to their land, while also upholding current conservation agreements and public access to the island’s beaches.”
The Rubio-Miller legislation seeks to permit leaseholders the option to attain title to property so that leaseholders and local governments can jointly address any local tax issues that arise in the future. This bill does not affect the right to public beach access, it does not reopen the Navarre Pass, it does not remove restriction on conservation areas, nor does it change the boundaries of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, nor negatively impact the mission of the National Park Service.