Escambia County Approves Change To Loosen Regulation On Rural Growth

February 9, 2019

The Escambia County Commission has approved the removal of a section of the county comprehensive plan that restricts the development of certain rural areas.

The change removes protections for agricultural and silvicultural (forestry) lands, allowing them to be rezoned as rural communities. Rural community zoning allows for “agriculture, silviculture, residential, recreational facilities, public and civic, compact traditional neighborhood supportive commercial” uses.

The portion of the comprehensive plan removed stated: “To protect silviculture, agriculture, and agriculture-related activities Escambia County will not support the establishment of new rural communities.”

The commission approved the change on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Doug Underhill dissenting.

Silviculture is the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests and woodlands to meet the diverse needs and values of landowners and society such as wildlife habitat, timber, water resources, restoration, and recreation on a sustainable basis, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Pictured: North Escambia farmland last fall. file photo, click to enlarge.


35 Responses to “Escambia County Approves Change To Loosen Regulation On Rural Growth”

  1. Short memories on February 12th, 2019 7:07 pm

    Back on the early 1990s, the State of Florida, through the Growth Management Act, required local governments to adopt comprehensive plans. These plans required, among many so-called mandates, densities in land use districts.

    Local residents were adamantly opposed to these restrictions. Militias formed. Effigies of state officials were tarred and feathered. “Takings!” “Eminent Domain!” “Property Rights!” “South Florida imposing its will on our lives!” These we’re battle cries against land use planning. Rural residents were furious at how the government could restrict any use of their property. Supporters of growth management were deemed liberals, socialists, and worse.

    Now, from everything I read below, everyone is up in arms about INCREASING land use densities, and losing rural uses, character, and quality of life.

    My, my. There is hope that today’s common sense proposals opposed by the 40% (universal health care, sustainable communities, renewable energy) might actually be supported in 25 years!

  2. Joshua on February 11th, 2019 11:07 pm

    The county commission is just getting the people in the north area ready for another Charter Government vote. They tried to push it about 20 years ago, here it comes again. All of Escambia will be the City of Pensacola. So, you will get to pay the city tax and live in Walnut Hill, 43 miles away from the actual city…..

  3. Mark on February 11th, 2019 9:55 pm

    Believe it or not, the revenue generated by the farms in the north side of this county are vital to our local economy. I believe our local government should actually be more protective of the farm land to insure that it remains farm land. If not, we will find ourselves not able to grow our own food in The U.S.

  4. Watcher on February 11th, 2019 6:13 pm

    I believe D5 commissioner had to make the call for the person to enjoy his property rights. If farmers still want to farm or tree growers still want to grow trees on their property they can.

    Commissioners have to make some tough decisions and people are quick to capitalize on it for their own political gain.

    So now because this is lifted, they can go and request a zoning change on the property they own. I think one house per five acres.

    If one wants to see farm and trees buy the property and plant it.

    Is there anyway a conservation movement can be made and the State buy up land for farmers who are ready to sell?

    Florida Forever buys land at times. They bought a good deal from the ST Joe company. It was planted pines..1000s of acres in Bay and maybe Calhoun and Gulf.

    The commissioners were asked to make adecision and they made it.

    People don’t understand the complexities of their job and are quick to have a knee jerk reaction. By home rule they took it out, yes it opened up choices.

    It is not nefarious.

  5. Sam Stewart on February 10th, 2019 10:53 pm

    How about all you city folks and county commissioner just stay South of Molino and leave the Farm and Forestry Land Alone .Cause if it was not for farmers there would be no food and clothing

  6. David Huie Green on February 10th, 2019 8:31 pm

    “You seem to have chosen to ignore the point that some people are of the opinion that building these pop-up communities and pressing forward urban sprawl is less desirable than seeing the natural growth of nature.”

    The point ended with “in quest for the Almighty Dollar $ $ $ $.” Maybe it was foolish of me to think that was related to the point, just as questioning whether cotton fields are natural is missing the point. My bad.

    This could be a bad thing, allowing people to live outside of Pensacola — like we get to do. It seems a bit greedy to ignore the needs of others for our selfish desires but maybe not.

    David for treating others as we would like to be treated

  7. CW on February 10th, 2019 10:57 am

    I wouldn’t think very many people with kids would want to buy a new house in Escambia County because of the poor schools. Isn’t that why Santa Rosa County’s growth has been so high in recent years?

  8. Bartender on February 10th, 2019 6:57 am

    If this continues we will be eating from other countries for sure.these people want to use farm land for profit only.why dont they invest money for making food for people an not filling their pockets with money.wonder who got a kick back for that.not right

  9. Watcher on February 9th, 2019 10:08 pm

    Well here comes Doug Underhill never missing an opportunity to try to make everyone else look bad, while he slips in 2million dollar projects in under the radar with ECW covering for him. How bad is it to let someone who owns property be able to use it?

  10. StraightShooter on February 9th, 2019 9:00 pm

    This came about because someone is trying to subdivide timberland on Atmore highway just above the old feed store for a subdivision The zoning change signs have been posted for a couple months. It was turned down because the comprehensive plan requirement for ag is one dwelling per 20 acres. Now this change will allow it, and will be the beginning of the end of the north end as we know it. Not sure if the 4 commissioners are seeing more dollar signs or want the north end to look like nine mile rd.

  11. Tracy A Smith on February 9th, 2019 8:58 pm

    I think they changed it so that the area off hwy 97 just north of sunshine Hill Rd can be built. Just my opinion.

  12. jp on February 9th, 2019 8:52 pm

    Growth will not be stopped!
    The population of the whole US is growing rapidly.
    Large numbers of people from the northern cities are retiring to warmer climates like Florida.
    Most of south FL is about filled up.
    Most of Florida’s east coast and from Ocala south is about developed.
    All of the above areas are more costly than NW FL.
    Ocala and Orlando used to have lots of open land.
    Large donors and their organizations that profit from growth will control these kinds of decisions.

    Many of the farmers in the north are getting older and few younger people are staying on the farms. New equipment is in many cases prohibitively expensive at today’s crop prices. Especially for other than larger farming operations.
    These farmers have every right to profit from their investment (farm land).

    Well developed counties of Florida have impact fees that new construction pays up front.
    Impact fees pay for the additional infastructure, roads, schools, fire and law protection.
    Impact fees which Escambia Co. does not have would greatly lesson the burden of growth on existing land and home owners.
    If the County is now going to allow development in the north imposing these impact fees is the only way to keep growth from being a disaster.

  13. Doug Underhill on February 9th, 2019 5:45 pm

    Fifteen years ago the developers set their eyes on my neighborhood, Perdido Key. The Commissioners couldn’t stop themselves from chopping up our community and jamming up our roads. They promised infrastructure that never came and they gave speeches with no action. Their greed damaged my neighborhood and my way of life. We fought back, first suing the county and then finally electing a commissioner that put the neighborhoods ahead of profit. Who will fight for the agrarian, rural life style? Districts 1, 2, and 5 are rural districts…if those Commissioners cared about the quality of life of rural citizens, we would have 3 votes on sprawl issues. We would protect your way of life.

  14. Margie Lu on February 9th, 2019 5:36 pm


  15. John on February 9th, 2019 4:49 pm

    Can’t believe Commissioner 5 went for this.

  16. Anne on February 9th, 2019 2:44 pm

    @ David H Green

    We’re not stupid, Sir. Of course farmers and foresters plant crops and trees that they will sell for sustaining their families and ours also.
    “Developers” buy property and build or sell in order to make money for themselves and in turn to provide temporary jobs for labor crews.

    You seem to have chosen to ignore the point that some people are of the opinion that building these pop-up communities and pressing forward urban sprawl is less desirable than seeing the natural growth of nature.. For my group seeing a beautiful green field or a cotton field all in white is much preferred over a bunch of red brick homes.

    Thank you for your input and open conversation is what Makes America GREAT….

  17. Bernie D Silcox on February 9th, 2019 2:12 pm

    As being from a family that has lived on Homestead Land for 120 yrs + This is the total wrong way to go.Santa Rosa has 1 house per Ac. & urban sprall is rampent Is this what Our people want/ Dont think so Election coming & Dis. 5 needs new commish. They have been bought off somehow.& now it will be the wild West (North) No sewer system , $ 1800 water tap fee .Its just the greed nothing more One time before we ran off a bunch of crooks, We will again…

  18. Citizen also on February 9th, 2019 12:12 pm

    Please,please PLEASE!!!!!!

    Mrs Rogers PLEASE run for county commisioner district 5.

    She’s a gentle bulldog and is ALWAYS on top of those 4 puppets we elected doing her part to save our end of the county.

  19. Jeremy on February 9th, 2019 11:52 am

    There is only so many houses that the morons in Escambia County can approve to be built next to the Dump in Beulah or next to the Poop smelling paper mill. The growth has to go somewhere unfortunately but it’s a good problem to have as long as we manage the growth responsibly which includes people in North Escambia who own the land and sell it to the developers. Look at how nice Spanish Fort and Daphne have developed and managed all their growth. There is typically a green belt between the road and the start of a neighborhood. Houses and trailer parks aren’t built next to each other 10 feet from a major road like Escambia with junk cars and trash in the front yards. Our county is already a joke to most people not because of expansion of development but because how we allowed it to happen over the years. We need to grow responsibly and be thankful for all the jobs that we are blessed with.

  20. wendell on February 9th, 2019 11:47 am

    That’s quite the revelation, David- I thought they did it for the fun of it.

  21. Brando on February 9th, 2019 11:35 am

    That makes sense, lets remove the areas designated for growing food for people, and just put more people there. I guess some folks think we have unlimited sources of food and timber. What will happen the day we don’t have enough land to produce food or timber for the amount of people we’re are cramming in the area???

  22. Concerned Citizen on February 9th, 2019 11:24 am

    Everybody remember this during election time, 4 Commisiiners were either paid off or they’re just plain stupid.

  23. David Huie Green on February 9th, 2019 11:04 am

    “Oh Lordy, can see it now with our beautiful fields and forests ruined in quest for the Almighty Dollar $ $ $ $.”

    Just to be clear, farmers and foresters plant crops — including trees — in hopes of receiving dollars from them.

    David for understanding

  24. J D on February 9th, 2019 10:54 am

    If you are worried about zoning of other people’s property for the good of the community lobby for full funding of conservation easements to compensate for the difference of value to preserve agriculture and forest lands

  25. Mary on February 9th, 2019 10:48 am


  26. Anne on February 9th, 2019 9:52 am

    Oh Lordy, can see it now with our beautiful fields and forests ruined in quest for the Almighty Dollar $ $ $ $.

    Downtown areas of Pensacola look like mill towns from back in the day with houses that are each one identical to its neighbor. Ugly and unimaginative “development” that makes it all look like “Tic-Tac” houses.
    Wondering what is the “Vision”? Acres upon acres of land converted to copies of the “Southfork” ranch from ‘Dallas’?
    What a mess we have for our County Commission.

  27. MR REALITY on February 9th, 2019 9:32 am

    WOW OH WOW…4 of the COMM down there prove day after day THEY ARE BRAIN DEAD!!! Even the one with the giant “HEAD”, has no brain in it.

  28. Niknak50 on February 9th, 2019 8:58 am

    It’s really sad. It’s all about money. Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have both grown faster than infrastructure can keep up with. What these commissioners do not see is traffic congestion and all the other ills associated with unregulated growth. However they can and do see dollar signs, trying to justify what all this growth will add to the county coffers. It makes me want to cry, the more and more farmland up for sale I see in Santa Rosa county and how fast homes are being built. These commissioners know that residential acres bring in more money than farming or forest acres, and now you know their motives.

  29. farmers daughter on February 9th, 2019 8:43 am

    This is a “progressive” step toward urbanization of our county.
    The day will come when Agricultural enterprises will be a thing of the past. Land taxes will go thru the proverbial roof and we will only remember the days we could see active farms. You can’t eat houses, people! We need to support and protect our Agricultural areas, not take them away!!

  30. Whisperjet on February 9th, 2019 8:29 am

    ..I guess some folks just have an attraction for asphalt and concrete

  31. No trucks or trees on February 9th, 2019 7:52 am

    Thank You Doug. The rest of the comm has been bought. Can’t wait for district 5 election.

  32. tlad on February 9th, 2019 7:50 am

    Commissioner Underhill, I truly wish you were my district commissioner!

  33. Phil on February 9th, 2019 7:37 am

    leave the urban sewer in pensacola, don’t bring that mess north. Looks like someone with enough money finally bought off 4 out of 5 county commissioners.

  34. Brian H on February 9th, 2019 5:28 am

    I wonder how hard the Home Builders Association was pushing the elected officials to pass this. This is the same group that gives a lot of campaign cash to the very said leaders.

  35. Citizen on February 9th, 2019 3:04 am

    That’s terrible, people need to stay south of nine mile road. They can build high rises and pack them in down there.

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