by Jeremy Morrison
Escambia County Commission Vice Chairman Wilson Robertson is requesting that a piece of property he owns be exempted from a conservation designation, citing the fact that he never received a letter informing him of the zoning change. But according to Escambia County, a letter of notification was never required.
An 8-acre parcel Robertson owns off Highway 29 saw its zoning designation change from industrial and commercial to “conservation neighborhood” — which restricts the amount of allowed development — in 20ll following Escambia’s Mid-West Sector Plan process. County spokesperson Joy Tsubooka said that the sector plan project did not require a letter of notification.
“This project was not handled like a rezoning project where letters are mailed out to the impacted area,” Tsubooka explained in an email, “but was a process similar to the Perdido Key Master Plan, a process which took several years and was much more intensive.”
Tsubooka cited public workshops held between 2008 and 2011, as well as stakeholder interviews and public hearings. The sector plan encompasses more than 15,000 acres of Escambia County.
Robertson purchased the property in June of 2008. Though he sits on the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, which had to sign off on the sector plan, he has said he did not notice his property was falling under a more restrictive zoning designation.
“Little did I know that we have been placed in a conservation district, because we were not notified,” Robertson said Monday (Oct. 3), contending that property owners should have been given the opportunity to opt out of the sector plan. “Even being a sitting commissioner, that’s how easy it is to miss something like that.”
Robertson said he expected other property owners to also request that their properties be removed from the sector plan, citing the failure to send out opt-out letters. The commissioner said that “there’s a bunch of them out there” and that he hoped his request would set a precedent for such cases.
The Escambia County commission will consider Robertson’s request during its Oct. 6 meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the county’s downtown complex. Robertson has said he plans to recuse himself from the matter.
For more on this subject, read “Escambia Commissioner Looking to Pull Property From Conservation District.”