By DOTTY NIST
Plans to add three additional roads to the Route 30A Scenic Corridor were derailed on Nov. 25 through a decision of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC).
The Nov. 25 BCC meeting included the first public county commission hearing on including the three roadways, Chat Holley Road, Churchill Bayou Road, and Church Street, as part of the scenic corridor. Chat Holley Road runs parallel and to the north of U.S. 98 in Santa Rosa Beach between CR-393 and U.S. 331. Churchill Bayou Road intersects with Chat Holley to the west, and Church Street intersects with Churchill Bayou Road to the south. None of the three roads joins with CR-30A. The Walton County Planning Commission had voted 4-to-3 in favor of the proposal.
In April, the county opted to include parts of CR-393, CR-395, CR-283, and CR-83 in the Route 30A Scenic Corridor. All these are north-south roads intersecting with CR-30A.
Pat Blackshear, county planning and development services director, noted there had been discussion of renaming the Route 30A Scenic Corridor since it now includes additional roadways.
The Route 30A Scenic Corridor sets special standards for setbacks, building widths, landscaping standards, driveway access, parking, illumination, signage, and other uses. Those standards are somewhat less stringent than those attached to south Walton County’s other designated scenic corridor, the U.S. 98 Scenic Corridor, which also includes U.S. 331 south of the bay bridge.
The commissioners heard opinions for and against adding Chat Holley and the other two roads proposed for inclusion.
Chat Holley Road property owner Lloyd Blue said he had supported scenic corridor standards for CR-30A, along with those for U.S. 98 and U.S. 331 in south Walton County, although he was of the opinion that some revisions to the standards were needed. Blue said his concern with the latest proposal was “creeping regulation.”
He recalled that the major focus with creation of the Route 30A Scenic Corridor was preservation and maximization of views of the gulf. He said he has spoken against including the north-south roads connecting with CR-30A with that corridor. Blue was in favor of focusing on acquiring right-of-way and getting paving done in needed areas on Chat Holley Road rather than “worrying about” corridor standards for the roadway at this time.
He was of the opinion that, if standards such as those being proposed were truly appropriate, they should be applied to all roads in south Walton County. “I just think it’s excessive regulation…especially at a time when businesses need more help and less regulation,” Blue concluded.
Churchill Bayou Road area resident Bill Bard countered that he had seen a substantial increase in traffic on the roadway. He was fearful that, without applying the controls of the “rather broad guidelines” of the Route 30A Scenic Corridor and with more development coming onto the roadway, the result would likely be a nonconformity situation similar to that of Azalea Drive in Destin.
“I support the measure,” Bard concluded.
District 3 Commissioner Larry Jones recalled that the county had created standards for CR-30A based on “what it was.” He did not see logic in “plugging in” roadways in other areas to those guidelines.
District 1 Commissioner Scott Brannon saw a greater need for improving traffic on Chat Holley Road and getting needed paving done rather than for setting corridor standards.
County Commission Chair Sara Comander was in favor of settting standards for the roadways, but not necessarily the same ones as applied to CR-30A. She advocated developing guidelines that were tailor-made and appropriate for Chat Holley and the other two roads.
Larry Jones then moved to dispense with the second scheduled public hearing for the proposal and “cease the process” of adding the additional roads to the Route 30A Scenic Corridor.
His motion was approved unanimously, resulting in failure of the proposal.