By DOTTY NIST
A full agenda is on tap for members of south Walton County’s tourism council at their 9 a.m. March 13 quarterly meeting at the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) building.
Among items to be taken up by the council will be working terms for negotiation of an agreement with the Florida Forest Service involving a new TDC building. The building would be sited on Forest Service property immediately south of the U.S. 331/U.S. 98 intersection.
The cost of the facility has been estimated at $4.5 million. This would be a replacement facility for the current TDC offices and visitor center and, as envisioned, would also include a nature and education center with boardwalks through the Point Washington State Forest connecting with the existing Long Leaf Trail. The trail runs east and west through the middle of the state forest. According to the working terms, the new TDC facility would be located on a 11.9-acre site.
The existing TDC facility, located at the northeast corner of the same intersection, is on a 1.1-acre parcel which is under lease to the TDC/county by the Florida Forest Service. Under the terms of the lease, the property is required to be returned to its previous undeveloped condition at such time as it is not being used for its current purpose.
The working terms for the new facility provide for the 11.9-acre forest service property that would be used for the new building to be leased to the county for an initial term of 50 years at a cost of $1 a year, with the possibility of lease renewal upon agreement of both parties.
Under the working terms, rather than the site of the existing TDC building undergoing restoration, the existing TDC building site and building would be transferred to the Florida Forest Service for use as administrative offices for the agency,
According to a March 1 memo from TDC Executive Director Dawn Moliterno, upon approval of working terms by the tourism council members and the county commission, the terms are to be “placed in a draft agreement of suitable form to the State, and transmitted to the State to begin negotiations on these terms.”
On March 5. TDC Finance/Administration Manager Michele Ray commented that the tourism council members would be voting on the working terms at the March 13 meeting, after which it was anticipated that the terms would be presented to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) its regular meeting later that day. The BCC meeting is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. on March 13 and take place at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
Ray said that public hearings would be scheduled in Walton County on a draft agreement for the new facility. The proposal will also undergo an approval process with the state, with final consideration to take place by Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet.
Also at the March 13 TDC meeting, Brad Pickel, TDC consultant, is scheduled to provide an update on the county’s efforts toward a large-scale project to nourish critically eroded beachfront areas along the CR-30A corridor.
Council members will consider, as well, a proposal to repaint the Sandestin water tower with the Visit South Walton logo and a welcome message.
Topics for updates by Moliterno will include U.S. 331, trade shows/leads, sponsorship grants, and the open seat on the tourism council.
TDC meetings are open to the public.