By DOTTY NIST
A development order recently approved for the Osprey Point subdivision at Sandestin prompted some discussion at the Feb. 25 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.
Osprey Point is a residential development on 7.82 acres on the north side of Heron Walk Drive within Sandestin Resort and the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact (DRI).
District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows commented that she had learned that the planning department had issued a development order for Osprey Point after the BCC vote on Jan. 28 to approve an E-2 change for a parcel at Sandestin Resort. The E-2 change was an amendment to the acreage stated for a parcel within the DRI to correctly reflect that acreage.
Meadows said it had not been her understanding that, with the vote, the BCC was authorizing the granting of a development order.
Driftwood Estates resident Alan Osborne came forward to comment, reading from minutes of the Jan. 14, 2014 and Jan. 28, 2014 BCC meetings.
Osborne said it had been his understanding that no development orders would be issued within the DRI prior to a hearing being held to determine Sandestin’s compliance with DRI requirements.
The compliance hearing had originally been scheduled for Feb. 3. However, at the Jan. 28 BCC meeting, the hearing was rescheduled for May 13 at the joint request of Sandestin Resort and the Sandestin Owners Association. Representatives of the resort and the owners’ association had been holding meetings to mediate differences with regard to future development at Sandestin. They asked for the delay to allow time for further work to resolve issues. At that time the attorney representing the owners’ association stated that the association withdrew its opposition to the granting of development orders for Osprey Point and for a proposed chapel within the resort.
At the Feb. 25 meeting, Osborne raised objection that the compliance hearing had been delayed. He said he had been prepared to present testimony at the orginally-scheduled hearing on Feb. 3. He added that there had been nothing on the agenda for the Jan. 28 meeting indicating that a postponement of the compliance hearing would be considered.
Osborne asked the BCC to stop issuance of development orders at Sandestin until the compliance hearing, as agreed upon at the Jan. 14 BCC meeting.
Greg Stewart, county land use attorney, agreed that the E-2 change had not authorized issuance of any development order. He explained that Osprey Point had been approved as a minor development in line with previous approval practice by the county for development applications within DRIs. This type of approval does not require the proposal being heard by the Walton County Planning Commissioner and the BCC.
Stewart said this previous practice had been reviewed and that his recommendation had been to require development proposals within DRIs to be considered major developments if they otherwise qualified as major. Sandestin, he explained, had been notified that this would be the procedure in the future. However, applications already under consideration, including Osprey Point, continued to undergo review as minor developments, Stewart said.
Stewart added that the owners’ association’s withdrawal of its objection to the Osprey Point proposal had provided for the minor development order to be issued for the development.
Meadows responded that Sandestin had been told in 2013 that Osprey Point would be considered as a major development. “You left out the public,” she told Stewart.
“We have no idea what’s in this development,” Meadows added.
Walton County Attorney Mark Davis agreed that it was true that the BCC did not vote on the Osprey Point proposal. He suggested that staff get with the developer and see if he would hold off on obtaining building permits for the development until after the compliance hearing.
Meadows said she did not think the developer would agree, but it was her opinion that the county should put a hold on all approvals in the DRI until the compliance hearing had been completed.
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander recalled that the BCC had previously said that no development orders would be issued at Sandestin prior to the compliance hearing. She thought that there might have been an oversight concerning that direction and said it would be helpful for the commissioners to have a copy of minutes from their previous meeting to review at the outset of each meeting.
Davis suggested that, rather than taking any immediate action, the BCC put the matter under discussion on the agenda for the March 11 BCC meeting to provide for notification. This was agreed to.
Upon Davis’ recommendation the compliance hearing was also rescheduled again in order to allow for more time for testimony, as previously only one hour had been provided for. The BCC voted to set the hearing for 9 a.m. on May 15 at the South Walton Annex, to continue as needed.
By DOTTY NIST