By DOTTY NIST
Detailed plans have been approved for Lupin Beach in Inlet Beach. County commissioners had approved the beachfront residential development as a conceptual planned unit development (PUD) in 2010.
The latest and final approval for Lupin Beach took place at the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) regular meeting on Dec. 11 at the South Walton Courthouse Annex, in a 3-2 vote.
Planning for the proposal began in 2008 and included a citizen advisory panel that studied the property, met several times, and made recommendations for the residential development. However, by December 2012 no citizen support for Lupin Beach apparently remained, judging from public comment at the final hearing on the development.
Lupin Beach’s conceptual plan had been approved at the BCC meeting Feb. 23, 2010 with all aye votes of commissioners in attendance at that meeting. These included current Walton County Commission Chairman Kenneth Pridgen, along with commissioners Scott Brannon, Larry Jones, and Cecilia Jones, who left office in November 2012. Current District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander was also serving at the time the conceptual plan came before the commissioners but was not at that meeting due to illness.
At the Feb. 23, 2010 meeting, an announcement was made that the detailed submittals for the development would proceed to the Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) for review as a minor development and would not come back before the Walton County Planning Commission and county commission. The detailed plans did undergo review at the Sept. 5, 2012, meeting of the TRC.
At that meeting, citizens in attendance questioned the approval process and recalled that they had been told that the proposal would be going before the planning commission and BCC. The TRC members voted for approval, subject to the planning director’s review of the issues raised by the public and subject to his determination on the question of whether the proposal should be treated as a major or minor development.
Based on county code provisions regarding detailed plan approval for PUDs, Walton County Planning and Development Services Director Wayne Dyess made the determination that the plans were required to undergo planning commission and county commission review as a major development.
The detailed plans garnered a 3-2 approval at the October 2012 planning commission meeting.
The plans came forward at the Dec. 11 BCC meeting with a county staff report stating that they were consistent with the approved conceptual plans, the county comprehensive plan and the county land development code.
Walton County District 3 Commissioner Bill Imfeld immediately moved to have the staff report introduced into evidence in the quasi-judicial proceeding. His motion was approved 4-1, with Walton County District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows dissenting. Imfeld then motioned for approval of the submittal. His motion died for lack of a second.
As a multi-hour hearing got started on the submittals, attorney Doug Hall, representing applicant EBSCO Gulf Coast Development, stated that what were being considered that evening were “essentially construction drawings,” such as had usually been reviewed by the TRC in the past. He added that arguments that had been made that the project would destroy the dunes, but that this was not the case.
Scott Shirley, an attorney representing Inlet Beach property owner Haynes O’Neil, stated that a 32-foot dune ridge protected Haynes’ Magnolia Lane home, and that he was present to make sure that ridge remained in place.
Shirley maintained that the density for the 6.36-acre development should be only 12 units rather than the 20 units that were proposed. He also argued that a dune created by the developers formed the Coastal Protection Zone (CPZ) line, and that the CPZ had not been delineated at the time of conceptual plan approval.
Only limited construction activity is permitted seaward of the CPZ. After the conceptual plan approval, the applicants conducted what was termed a dune enhancement project, which was permitted by the state.
Shirley argued, as well, that the grading plan for the development had not been part of the conceptual approval and would would result in a “wall” in his client’s back yard.
Hall made an objection, countering that the project’s density, the CPZ, and the grading plan had all been part of the conceptual approval in 2010. He asserted that, if Shirley were allowed to “open the door” on these issues, this would also allow the applicants to present evidence to demonstrate what was approved in the conceptual plan. Hall also commented that the development had already been approved for 20 units and that it was not within the scope of the current proceeding to address density.
District 1 Commissioner Bill Chapman responded that he did not think the BCC needed to address what had already been approved. He said what they did need to address was technical review of the project.
Imfeld moved to sustain Hall’s objection, and Chapman seconded
Sue Parsonnet, a neighbor of the proposal, protested that at the time of the previous BCC approval on the project, “they did not listen to any neighbor…they shut us down.”
“Please hear us…let these attorneys speak,” she urged.
Anita Page argued that the “crux of the matter” was what had happened in the 2010 hearing. She said she had listened to a recording of that meeting, but that it would have been “healthy” to have a transcript of that hearing available. “What was not discussed is appropriate to be reviewed,” she said.
A vote was called for on Imfeld’s motion, which was approved 3-2, with District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows and District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander dissenting. That decision resulted in Shirley being barred from presenting evidence on the issues he had outlined….
Read the full story in the Dec. 20, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.