A new effort to incorporate Navarre is in the works and seeking public input.
Preserve Navarre is hosting an in-person meeting on Sunday, where the nonprofit will launch its web-based survey of 10 questions to help gauge interest and concerns about incorporating “Florida’s Most Relaxing Place.”
Resident Wes Siler started the efforts six months ago and founded the nonprofit which has four board members including Siler, director; Nancy Forester, vice director; Chuck Pohlmann, adviser relations; and Mike Matthews, treasurer.
Siler came to Navarre with his wife and kids in tow by way of the Air Force. Now, he’s transitioning into the Reserves and said he wants to preserve Navarre’s unique quality of a small-town feeling and tourist destination.
“I grew up in Memphis and vacationed here,” he said. “It reminds me of what Destin used to be. I want to preserve that.”
Preserve Navarre is one of a few groups that have tried to incorporate Navarre. In 2014, the question was put to a nonbinding straw poll, which only got 44% voter approval. Most recently, in 2020, the political action committee Navarre Area United fell short of about 1,200 signatures to get on the primary election ballot.
Even after a vote with the needed 60% majority, the measure would need to go to the state Legislature.
Siler said he’s reached out to those who have put the work in before him to talk about the obstacles he faces. The biggest one is cost, he said. Right now, the Preserve Navarre nonprofit has $600 in the bank.
But he’s undeterred and says no matter what, the efforts are about making Navarre better.
“Incorporation isn’t the end-all-be-all,” he said. “We’d still have a nonprofit that cares about Navarre.”
The latest census data on Navarre, which is 10 years old, shows a population of 31,378 and an average income of $32,634. The 2020 Census data will provide a clearer picture when it’s released.
When it comes to incorporation, Siler said there’s no one way to go about it. As part of the research, he looked at other Florida cities, including Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, St. Petersburg and Winter Springs, to see what their municipal governments looked like. Part of the survey aims to get an idea of what exactly residents want, such as boundary lines or the question of a strong mayor versus city manager.
“There’s a million ways to incorporate,” he said. “(The survey) is how we can clarify what that vote means. Then we can move forward with the charter and feasibility study.”
Siler knows one of the biggest concerns for residents will be cost to run a municipality. And part of the survey is breaking down how much, for example, a police department would be for households. In Siler’s research, a police department could cost residents $55 a year in addition to property taxes. But, he says, the prices could be a lot lower by implementing tourist fees.
At Sunday’s meeting, residents have the opportunity to talk to Siler and get more context to each of the survey questions, but anyone can take the survey when it goes live on Sunday evening at yournavarre.com.
One of the next steps is sending out mailers. Siler said he’ll keep the survey going for months until they get responses from about 5 to 7% of registered voters.
“We’re a nonpartisan nonprofit,” he said. “People have such a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to government right now. We’re trying to earn people’s trust and be as transparent as possible.”
The Sunday meeting will be from 3-5 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, located at 2002 Elks Way. For more information, visit preservenavarre.com.