CRESTVIEW — Have you ever looked at a map of Crestview’s city boundaries? It might look a little peculiar.
If you were to drive north on Highway 85, the city limits would begin to run alongside the left of the highway at the start of the Shoal River Bridge. You would not enter the city limits until you were in front of the auto dealerships just north of Riverwood Drive. You would then exit the city limits at Stillwell Boulevard before re-entering the city limits in front of Crestview High School. Finally, you would end up back in the county after crossing Airport Road.
The line between city and county affects everything from emergency services to infrastructure to the ability to vote in municipal elections. Strangely-shaped city outlines are not rare, especially in Florida where the city limits are determined mainly by voluntary annexation, but Crestview looks more extreme than some of its neighbors.
Voluntary annexation means that land owners must petition the city government to make their piece of land part of the city. It happens often with new or proposed subdivisions, as developers will apply for annexation to take advantage of the benefits of being within city limits.
“There are many reasons why developers want to build in the city and why people want to live in the city," Crestview Growth Management Director Teresa Gaillard said, "utility services, potable water, sanitary sewer, storm water retention and maintenance; life safety services such as fire and police protection, which can also factor into homeowners' insurance savings."
The way the boundaries are drawn creates an unusual dynamic. Aside from the example of driving along Highway 85, City Council President J.B. Whitten offers an even starker example.
“(Police Chief) Tony Taylor walks out of the police station and he’s on city property,” Whitten said. “If he walks over to the back of CEFCO, he’s on county property. As he’s crossing (highway 85), he’s back on city property.”
Even in the middle of what most would consider to be Crestview, you might find yourself in an unincorporated area of the county. For example, if you lived on Garden Street - which runs just south of Crestview High School - and you had an emergency, Crestview Police might show up at your door, while your next-door neighbor would get a visit from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
“The irregular boundary and the inconsistency of adjacent parcels being city and county has caused concern for the emergency service providers,” Gaillard said. “However, most calls are address-related, and the service providers work diligently in maintaining up-to-date address and roadway records coupled with the latest GIS/GPS equipment.”
Traffic is a well-known problem in Crestview, and solutions are slightly complicated by the fact that key road sections cross over city and county lines. Part of the proposed improvements centering on an interchange at Interstate 10 and Antioch Road is the development of Raspberry Road. While most of Raspberry Road runs through the city, a short stretch in the middle of it is on county property.
The situation forces the city and county to work together on solutions to traffic problems. Whitten and County Commissioner Graham Fountain have both said that the two entities are now working together well to resolve these issues.
If you ever decide to run for city council or even mayor, you might want to double-check that map to make sure you actually live in the city first.
The neighborhoods north of Stillwell Boulevard are in the county, as are most of the areas off John King Road. If you live in the Lee Farms subdivision west of town, you’ll need to think about running for county commissioner instead, even though the neighboring subdivisions to the east and west are both located in the city.
The same idea applies to voting. The city charter, which defines Crestview’s three voting precincts, states that qualified electors must come from inside the voting precincts of the city limits.
For a local example of this, look no further than Laurel Hill where city councilman Johnny James was found in 2015 to reside outside the city limits. He was forced to step down until his property, which was adjacent to Laurel Hill’s borders, was formally annexed into the city.
Getting into the city
Florida’s voluntary annexation laws do give people the option to become part of a city under certain conditions. First, your property must be adjacent to the current city limits. If your property shares a boundary with the city, you meet this first requirement.
Second, you have to own the property to be annexed. If there are multiple owners of a property, they all have to sign the petition. This becomes complicated in the case of subdivisions outside city limits, where a certain percentage of the homeowners have to be on board with the annexation plan.
After that, the petition is submitted to the city council for annexation and rezoning. If your property meets all the requirements and is approved by the city council, you can officially become part of Crestview.
“It’s really an easy process,” Gaillard said.