A judge's ruling earlier this month supports Santa Rosa County's taxing leased land on Navarre Beach, but leaseholders will continue their legal challenge.
"Our group has indicated it will appeal that decision," Danny Kepner, the leaseholders' attorney, said Friday. "In my view, the judge's decision contradicts Florida law."
Circuit Court Judge Gary Bergosh announced his decision favoring the county after a four-hour hearing May 7 at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse in Milton. Bergosh agreed with earlier court decisions that leaseholders have "equitable ownership" of the property they lease. In 2004's Ward v. Brown -- stemming from a 2001 lawsuit also pitting Navarre Beach leaseholders against Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser Greg Brown and former Tax Collector Robert McClure -- Santa Rosa Circuit Court Judge Paul Rasmussen ruled that beach leaseholders have equitable ownership of their properties because they enjoy benefits as if they owned the property. Leaseholders can profit by selling their leases or renting or subletting the leased property. Most of the leases have original terms of up to 99 years, are automatically renewable, and transfer with the leaseholders' estates when they die.
For more on this story, see the May 20 issue of the Navarre Press or subscribe online.