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Forest site nixed for new TDC facility

May 18th, 2012 | 0

by DOTTY NIST

The option of constructing a new South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) building on Point Washington State Forest property has been eliminated in a 4-0 vote of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC).

The decision took place at the May 8 regular BCC meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex, following a motion by District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones.

Stating that she had listened to her constituents on this issue, Jones, did express appreciation to the TDC and commended the job they had done in addressing deficiencies with the current TDC building.

The TDC had proposed the facility as the “South Walton Discovery Center,” encompassing not only a visitor center and administrative offices, but an interactive nature center highlighting south Walton County’s plant and animal communities, with hiking trails leading into the forest.

However, the idea of development within the forest had proved to be overwhelmingly unpopular with the community.

Following discussion of the proposal at the April 10 BCC meeting and considerable public comment, input from the Florida Forest Service was sought as to whether such a facility would benefit the forest.

In an April 24 letter, Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels stated that the forest service does not advocate development in the state forest but does its “utmost to mitigate any potential negative impacts to our resources from any development that may occur.” In making her motion to deny working terms for an agreement with the forest service for the TDC facility, Cecilia Jones referenced Karels’ letter.

After approval of the motion to deny, the commissioners discussed how to proceed with the selection of a site for the new building and with a design for the building.

County Commission Chairman Scott Brannon suggested authorizing the TDC’s request to do a request for proposals (RFP) for architectural/design services and having the TDC bring three site alternatives before the BCC.

There was discussion as to which should come first, a building design or the selection of a building site.

TDC Executive Director Dawn Moliterno reminded the commissioners that the TDC had studied deficiencies with the current building and needs of the organization in connection with a new building. She recommended approval of the RFP in order to select a firm for the BCC to work with in holding workshops that would determine what features would be included with the building and what it would look like.

“It’s so very important that the public have a voice on this,” Cecilia Jones commented.

She moved to authorize the RFP, and her motion was approved by all four commissioners present….

Read the full story in the May 17, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.

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