Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today reintroduced the Escambia County Land Conveyance Act, legislation that would give certain residents of Santa Rosa Island the option of owning the property they are currently leasing, and preserve public access to Escambia County’s current conservation, recreation, and parking areas.
“Seventy years ago, Santa Rosa Island had just a few small beach homes,” said Rubio. “Now it’s a vibrant, flourishing community, but an outdated law means some residents are unable to own the lands on which they reside and pay for. I’ve worked with Escambia and Santa Rosa county officials to fix this problem so that leaseholders have the option of owning the property their houses sit on and no longer being unfairly taxed.”
Ownership of Santa Rosa Island has switched between the federal government and local counties several times. 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. The county has since leased property to businesses and homeowners who paid fees but were not charged property taxes, until court rulings allowed leaseholders to be assessed property taxes in addition to the improvements and lease fees they were already paying.
U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced the bill in the House last week. Rubio previously introduced the legislation in 2015.