By DOTTY NIST
Greater Driftwood Estates homeowners are seeking a court order barring Walton County from issuing building permits or extending services to a portion of the Sandestin development of regional impact (DRI) that they contend was developed in violation of the DRI.
The arrowhead-shaped, peninsular Driftwood subdivision adjoins the Sandestin property, although Driftwood’s roadway connection to Sandestin is walled off. Although under separate ownership, most of Driftwood Estates was part of the original Sandestin DRI master plan approved by the county in the 1970s and is still included in that DRI master plan.
Since the mid-2000s, existing homeowners in the perimeter of the Driftwood property have complained to the county of flooding issues as the development of the interior of the subdivision proceeded.
The homeowners’ complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, filed on Feb. 19, references an April 1986 letter from then-County Planning Director Shirl Williams stating that on April 10, 1986, the Walton County Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA) granted Sandestin Corp. approval to develop Sandestin Resort as a planned unit development (PUD). The complaint alleges that, by statute, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC), not the ZBA, was required to enact the PUD. The ZBA is a citizen board appointed by the BCC.
The complaint states that, as the governing board of Walton County, only the BCC had the authority to grant PUD status and that the PUD is therfore void.
It further alleges that the elimination of open space in the Sandestin DRI exceeding the threshold set by Florida Statutes has occurred, with approval granted by the county for development on 160 acres in an area set aside as open space in the DRI. They maintain that the elimination of this amount of open space could not have legally taken place without a substantial deviation review of the DRI, which has not been conducted.
Complaining of “irreparable injury,” the homeowners seek not only an order barring the county from granting building permits or extension of services in the area in question, but the blocking of “any further local approvals pursuant to the void PUD,” and an order requiring the county to process the substantial deviation review. The homeowners seek reimbursement of the cost of their litigation, as well, and “such further relief as might be meet and proper.”
The homeowners are represented by Shawn M. Heath of the Tallahassee law firm Gray Robinson, P.A.
The case has been assigned to Walton County Judge David Green. There has been no responsive filing by the county at this time, and no court date has been set.