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Working Waterfront Amendment Confuses Voters, Frustrates Business Owners

October 23rd, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Coastal marinas, oyster houses and other marine interests have been under increasing pressure to sell out to developers. A tax system that allows appraisers to tax the property for what it could be used for instead of how it is being used has made the problem worse. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, voters have a chance to change tax policy to help waterfront businesses.

This marina in Panacea, on the Panhandle coast south of Tallahassee sits on four and a half prime acres, ripe for development. Oyster houses on the Apalachicola River, or shrimping interests around the state all face the same problem. High property taxes because of how the property might be used, not on how it is being used now. Marina manager Bruce Sanson says it isnt fair.

Its not like we dont want to pay taxes, Sanson said. Were not trying to get out of some sort of tax loophole or anything like that. We of course want to pay our share.

Amendment 6 on the November ballot says the property can only be taxed based on how it is being used. The problem is that many voters dont understand it.

I didnt mark it either way, so what would that count? Not at all, voter Eduardo Pascaul said.

The conservative Florida Taxwatch says the amendment will help keep Floridas unique heritage intact.

Were losing a lot of those businesses, were losing access to the water, tax analyst Kurt Wenner said.

Some day this acreage may indeed become a condo or town homes.

While the real estate market isnt pushing the value of this area up right now, seafood dealers and marina owners are worried about what happens when the market comes back.

But for now Bruce Sanson hopes voters tax him fairly.

We do not intend on the future use of it to be greater than what it is, then it should stay like it is, Sanson said.

The amendment needs a 60 percent approval margin before it can take effect in 2010.

While Florida Taxwatch supports the amendment, the group says it wishes it also extended tax breaks to mom and pop hotels and parks along the coast.

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