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Walton County adopts EAR-based amendments

Mar 10th, 2011 | 0

By DOTTY NIST

Approved at a March 1 final adoption hearing was a package of amendments implementing Walton County’s Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR), which was approved by the state in 2007.

A measure of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan’s effectiveness in meeting community goals, the EAR is required by the state on a periodic basis. The amendment package had been approved in September for transmission to the state Department of Community Affairs for review, comments, and recommendations.

During the March 1 adoption hearing at the Walton County Courthouse, county commissioners considered recommendations from the state regarding the proposed amendments and took input from citizens and county staff. Commissioners present for the meeting included Scott Brannon, Sara Comander, Cecilia Jones, and Kenneth Pridgen.

The county’s proposals for revisions to its comprehensive plan elements and its comprehensive plan map series were approved at the March 1 meeting with few changes.

A total of 42 proposed county-sponsored land use amendments were presented next. All but two of those amendments were approved.

Neighborhood concern emerged over one proposed county-sponsored amendment that would have changed five acres owned by the city of DeFuniak Springs from Estate Residential to Public Facilities. Located in the unincorporated area off Peck Cawthon Road, the parcel is the site of a water tower.

While the city had not requested the land use change, the county had proposed it due to the property meeting the definition of public facility property.

Since the property is located near residential areas, some neighbors of the parcel were apprehensive that future uses of the property might not be in harmony with the neighborhood if the new land use classification were approved.

DeFuniak Springs planning director Greg Scoville commented that, other than water extraction, the water tower and a pump station, the city had no other plans for the parcel. He added that they would have no objection to the land use classification remaining Estate Residential as long as those uses would be allowed.

The commissioners voted 4-0 not to adopt the land use category change.

There was also concern by citizens about an amendment that would have changed a 0.141-acre parcel in Blue Mountain Beach, located at the corner of Flounder Street and CR-30A, from Residential Preservation to Neighborhood Commercial. The property is located across CR-30A from White Cliffs and Adagio.

One neighboring resident said it had not been a problem for him when the property had been used as a doctor’s office, but that he was fearful of what use might be made of the parcel in the future if the land use category change were approved.

The building on the property is 800 square feet in size.

Jennifer Christensen of Walton County Planning explained that the new land use classification would allow neighborhood-serving uses, including a small restaurant or cafe with no outdoor music permitted. She added that, however, use in this manner would be severely limited due to the size of the property, parking and buffering requirements that would come into play with this type of use.

Owners of the property commented that they had a small restaurant in mind which might serve breakfast. It was their hope that many customers would walk and ride bicycles. They expressed a desire to have a positive influence and address any community concerns.

Brannon expressed concern that it would be inevitable, considering the size of the parcel, that for a restaurant, the owners would be asking to use county right-of-way for part of the parking. Comander noted that the county is trying to “crack down” on the use of right-of-way for parking.

A vote was taken on the proposed amendment, with Pridgen and Jones voting in favor and Brannon and Comander voting no. The tie vote resulted in the failure of the amendment, leaving the land use classfication of the parcel Residential Preservation.

The 0.73-acre Rock Hard jewelry store property on CR-30A in Grayton Beach was approved for a change from Residential Preservation to Neighborhood Commercial, but not without comments from a neighbor who said he had heard that a “beer garden” and outdoor music were planned there. Property owner Rocky Hard responded that there was no truth to the rumor, and that the property would remain a jewelry store, although weddings and other gatherings would continue in the courtyard.

Christensen noted that the parcel had been designated as commercial in covenants and restrictions of the subdivision containing it, and that any outdoor seating or music would require separate approval on a case-by-case basis.

The Seagrove Villas and Wheelhouse properties on CR-30A in Seagrove, 1.308 acres and 1.309 acres in size, respectively, were approved for a change from Residential Preservation to Neighborhood Commercial.

A proposed amendment that would have changed more than 2,447 acres, located north and south of CR-3280, to Black Creek Low-Density Residential was modified as a result of recommendations by the state. The property is currently classified as Large-Scale Agriculture, General Agriculture, and North Bay NPA Rural Town Center.

There had been DCA concerns about the suitability of the property for the proposed classification, along with the adequacy of protection that would be provided to adjoining Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) land to the south.

In response to those concerns, county staff recommended reducing the proposed density on the property from two units per acre to one unit per acre, adding a 30-percent open space requirement, and adding a 100-foot buffer adjacent to the NWFWMD land. Staff also recommended removing from the amendment 868 acres now foreclosed on and at auction, located south of CR-3280.

Speaking for the owners who had planned to do an environmentally-sensitive development on the property, Lloyd Blue commented that, due to economic pressures, they had been unable to salvage the comprehensive project they had planned and were unable to continue to commit to the protection of the sensitive sand-hill lakes in the center of the 800 acres. He added that therefore the owners thought it appropriate to remove the 800 acres from the amendment—but that he would encourage those acres to be included in the future if its new owners did commit to their environmental protection.

The amendment was approved 4-0, minus the 800 acres and with the density, open-space and buffer requirement recommendations attached for the remainder of the property….

Read the full story in the March 10, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.

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