By DOTTY NIST
The Walton County Planning Commission and Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) will consider the Sandestin Ferris wheel proposal in public session as the result of a July 9 decision by the BCC.
Previously the wheel proposal had been under review by the Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) as a minor development, and, consistent with previous county practice for review of minor developments within developments of regional impact such as Sandestin, the TRC was anticipated to make the final decision on approval or denial of the structure. The wheel had been proposed for the Events Area in Sandestin’s Village of Baytowne Wharf.
On July 3, the TRC had tabled the proposal in order for a legal opinion to be obtained on whether a variance, providing for construction heights at Sandestin over Walton County’s 50-foot limit, would hold for a non-building structure such as the Ferris wheel. The wheel is to be approximately 60 feet in height. It had been stated by engineer Dean Burgis, project representive, that there would be fluorescent lights on the wheel, and he was requested to provide a lighting plan to the TRC at its July 10 meeting.
However, at the July 9 BCC meeting, District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows presented concerns about the effect of the Ferris wheel on surrounding properties and public safety. “This is an egregious impact on neighboring residential properties,” she charged. Meadows argued that the wheel proposal should come before the BCC in public session due to those impacts.
After discussion by the BCC and comment by Sandestin residents, county legal counsel, and Burgis, the commissioners voted 4-0 to have Walton County Planning Director Wayne Dyess deem the Ferris wheel to be a major development. As a major development, the wheel is required to undergo review and consideration by the planning commission and the BCC.
According to Renee Bradley of Walton County planning and the TRC, the legal opinion obtained from Greg Stewart, county legal counsel, had been that the Sandestin height variance is applicable to the Ferris wheel. Bradley said the DRB had voted on July 10 to have the Ferris wheel reviewed as a major development. She said that the applicant had not had the lighting plan ready for the July 10 TRC meeting but had agreed to provide one as soon as possible. Bradley explained that if the county received the lighting plan by July 17, the Ferris wheel proposal would be scheduled to go before the planning commission at its 5 p.m. Aug. 8 meeting. If not, the proposal is to be delayed to the Sept. 12 planning commission meeting.