By DOTTY NIST
Appointments have been made to fill seats on the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and a decision has been reached regarding the newly-approved Osprey Point subdivision at Sandestin.
The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) took action on the two issues at its March 11 regular meeting at the South Walton Annex.
Jim Bagby, TDC executive director, delivered recommendations from the newly-appointed Selection Committee, which had been tasked with reviewing applications for seats 4 through 9 of the tourism council. The BCC had directed that those seats be “redone” due the number of bed tax collectors on the council exceeding the number allowed by state statute, four. Seats 4 through 9 are those designated for people in the tourism industry, to include not less than three and not more than four bed tax collectors.
The selection committee had been composed of Bagby, District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows, and Stan Sunday, deputy county administrator. The committee’s recommendations were as follows: Seat 4 – Gary Brielmayer; seat 5 – Kurt Tape; seat 6 – Jennifer Frost; seat 7 – Jim Richard; seat 8 – Art Miller; and seat 9 – Pam Avera.
Meadows made a motion for approval, which initially died for lack of a second. She then observed that the TDC must have a board. Asked if there were terms for the current seat holders. Bagby responded that those terms had been set up to end that day, with the approval of new council members.
Mark Davis, county attorney, discussed different options available to the BCC, including deeming that the current members serving in the six council seats would continue to serve.
Meadows commented that if the commissioners had a problem with the list of recommendations or with any person on it, “we need to know.”
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander said her concern was with “what went on,” without explaining. However, she reluctantly said that she would second Meadows’ motion.
“I am embarrassed,” Miramar Beach resident Suzanne Harris complained, coming forward. She interpreted the BCC’s behavior as “going against” Bagby, the person they had chosen in 2013 to become executive director.
Harris brought up problems with the BP-funded gift cards that the BCC had “let” the TDC issue in the wake of the 2010 oil spill. An audit had determined that there had been incomplete documentation on $121,000 worth of cards issued.
“Three of us were not here,” BCC Chairman Bill Chapman responded.
“We do need to move forward,” Comander stated, saying that this had been her reason to second Meadows’ motion.
A vote was taken, and the appointments recommended by the selection committee were approved unanimously.
In other business, Feb. 6 issuance of a development order by the planning department for Osprey Point, a residential project planned for the Sandestin Resort, was discussed.
The commissioners were provided with verbatim transcript of the Jan. 28 BCC meeting, at which an “E-2 change” was approved to adjust acreage that had been incorrectly recorded on a parcel within the resort. The item had been continued from the previous BCC meeting on Jan. 14 due to problems with notification.
Mark Davis explained that the E-2 change had been the last “impediment” to the development order being issued. Davis also noted that there had been a determination to treat the Osprey Point application as a minor development, in line with previous county practice for developments within DRIs, due to the application having already been under review by the county—even though the county would be requiring applications within DRIs otherwise qualifying as major developments to be reviewed as such in the future. Minor developments do not require review and consideration by the Walton County Planning Commission and BCC.
Calling the matter “very confusing,” Commissioner Meadows said that on Jan. 14 the commissioners had been told that the E-2 change would not provide for Sandestin to move forward with Osprey Point. She recalled that the commissioners had been told at that time that no development orders would be issued for Sandestin prior to the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact (DRI) being found in compliance at a BCC hearing.
Alan Osborne of Greater Driftwood Estates argued that Sandestin had been put on notice in 2012 that Osprey Point would be reviewed as a major development. He also charged that in approving the development order for the project, the county had changed what was going to be done regarding the application without proper notice. Osborne also raised questions about information that had been conveyed to the state by the county as a result of the Jan. 28 E-2 change approval.
Representing Sandestin, attorney Dana Matthews contended that Sandestin had been told in April 2013 that the planning director reserved the right to deem that applications within the resort would require major development review—but that there had been no notification that this would in fact be required. He also argued that there had been a finding by county staff that the Sandestin DRI was in compliance.
“This is a massive legal confusion,” Meadows complained.
She referred to a staff report provided to the BCC on Jan. 28, stating that the E-2 change would be considered, with no development order to be issued prior to a compliance hearing that had then been set for Feb. 3. Later that date was changed to May 13, and it is currently set for May 15.
The matter was concluded with the BCC approving 4-0 a motion not to accept any building permit applications for Osprey Point pending that compliance hearing.
By DOTTY NIST