By BEN GRAFTON
The first order of business for the Walton County Planning Commission meeting on June 12 was the election of a new Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson for the remainder of the 2014 calendar year. Teddy Stewart was elected Chair and David Kramer was elected Vice-Chair.
Two of the items on the meeting agenda: an ordinance amending the General Commercial Text Amendment of the Walton County Plan Policy, and a Notice of Proposed Change of the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact (DRI) for Parcel 208/308, were continued to the next meeting of the Planning Commission.
In a discussion about amending the Illegal Sign Ordinance it was pointed out that after notification a person has 15 days to remove a temporary illegal sign, but the ordinance also allows a 14-day temporary permit for a sign. A proposed change would allow immediate removal of an illegal temporary sign. The discussion then explored the problem of entering private property without notice to remove an illegal sign being displayed. The commission was also informed that there were other problems with the ordinance which needed to be addressed. In view of these issues a decision was made to defer the matter until the July meeting to allow the staff to provide more information for the commission.
A major development order application has been submitted by Jenkins Engineering requesting approval for a 98,550-square foot mini-warehouse storage facility with 710 units, on a 5.85 acre parcel located at the end of Grayton Village Road. The staff reported that the proposal meets the code requirements of the Comprehensive Plan. The project will include 76 parking spaces. Consultant Jack Rhodes addressed the commission telling them that an agreement with a small homeowners association for a nearby property has been reached. This agreement includes, among other things, use of a street scene landscape, low impact pedestrian lighting, a side walk, relocation of mail boxes, relocation of sprinklers, a cross walk and dust control during the construction phase. Commissioner David Kramer expressed concern about the turning radius of large trucks. Engineer Scott Jenkins advised that space is available to handle fire trucks and environmental trucks and that signs to limit the size of trucks permitted on the property will be posted. The commission adopted a motion to send a recommendation for approval to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC).
A major development order application has been submitted for a Grand Boulevard Building “S” project by Innerlight Engineering, Inc for the Howard Group. The project proposes building a two-story, 35,811-square foot building for retail space on a site previously developed as a parking lot. The building site is at the northwest corner of U.S. 98 and Charles Place. This site is a part of the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact (DRI). There is a question of whether or not the Sandestin (Tom Becnel, owner) development is in compliance with the provisions of Florida’s DRI rules, and if not, how does this impact other projects including that of Building “S”? Affecting this question was the approval of a motion by the BCC that declared Sandestin had failed to comply with the DRI rules. Communications between Walton County staff and different staff members of the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) produced conflicting opinions as to whether or not the development is in compliance, but it was reported that the most recent May 30 letter from DEO indicates there is no problem. In addition, four opposition letters pertaining to drainage have been received.
Meanwhile, drainage plans and traffic analyses for the Building “S” project have been reviewed and approved by the County’s Engineering Department. There are no outstanding environmental issues, although a copy of the NPDES permit should be provided prior to commencement of development. Fire and emergency response inspections have yielded satisfactory reports. The project is moving forward under the provisions of the Walton County Land Development Code.
Planning Commissioner Tom Patton said, “I see three options: 1. we could continue with the project….2. we could vote to approve it with certain conditions; and 3. we can turn it down. Either one of those alternatives allows Grand Boulevard to go to the BCC. I move that we vote for approval based on staff recommendations, the 2004 Master Plan and the DEO letter of May 30.” The motion was unanimously approved.
In the last item on the agenda, W. Development and Architects submitted a large scale amendment application for Stonegate – LSA. The application asks for a change in zoning of a 19.63-acre tract on the north side of West Hewitt Road from Conservation Residential (two units per acre) to Small Neighborhood (possibly up to 10 units per acre). The applicant, Elliott Mitchell, accompanied by Wendy Gray, was present. Gray said, “The project does meet the locational criteria. It is an appropriate use of the property given that the general area is in the process of urbanizing,… and also the project is compatible with the surrounding area due to the fact that there is residential across from this property.”
Andrew Czarnecki, an area resident, spoke against the proposed project saying, “The water table in our community and the surrounding areas is at the surface… In two homes [following recent rains] the water came up to the foundations…. when you generate more runoff – we’re going to be flooded in our community….If you approve this proposal and the homes flood, we’ll know why.”
A Stonegate spokesperson addressed the Commission and said, “We truly don’t know what we are going to put on this property yet because we don’t have it zoned. It will depend on what we can get through Small Neighborhood and density bonus points on the property. We see a pattern developing here…we want to put more senior housing on this property…but until we get the Small Neighborhood zoning, we don’t know the density.” After consideration the commission approved a motion to recommend that the BCC deny the application.
By BEN GRAFTON