By DOTTY NIST
Land use in Walton County is currently governed by future land use classifications that are numerous but also somewhat broad. At a recent workshop, county commissioners spoke in favor of the concept of zoning.
“I think zoning is definitely where we need to be at the end of the day,” District 1 Commissioner Scott Brannon commented at one point during the April 7 workshop, which was devoted to discussion of proposed amendments to land use element policies of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan.
“I agree,” responded County Commission Chair Sara Comander.
Brannon’s “end of the day,” reference was in the figurative sense. Pat Blackshear, county long-range planning director, remarked that it would not be possible to pursue zoning until after adoption of the amendment package, which was created to address needs and deficiencies highlighted by the county’s current evaluation and appraisal report (EAR). That adoption is anticipated for completion in approximately one year.
However, Blackshear stated, “I do believe we got consensus from the board this morning to pursue zoning,”
Walton County Planning Manager Lois La Seur explained that zoning would not do away with future land use classifications but instead would essentially go “on top” of those broader categories, which would continue to apply.
She added that zoning would focus on smaller areas, set more detailed regulations, and establish “more certainty” with regard to allowable land uses.
Are there similarities between zoning and neighborhood plans? La Seur answered yes, but added that neighborhood plans are created by property owners in specific areas, while zoning would be put in place by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners. This would occur in public session with input from residents and property owners.
“To me zoning simplifies things. You know what you can and can’t do,” commented Commission Chair Comander.
“Zoning is the answer to better planning. This subjectivity and vagueness we deal with, I think it would clarify that,” said Commissioner Brannon.
Brannon was of the opinion that zoning would not only be best for property owners, but for the protection of character in the communities, especially when redevelopment occurs. He also thought zoning would reduce the incidence of litigation against the county.
With the use of zoning subsets with more specific regulations, he explained, less detail would be required in the Walton County Comprehensive Plan, the growth management document that aims for broad policies. Zoning could also allow for a reduction in the number of future land use classifications, Brannon said.
DeFuniak Springs and Freeport have zoning in place within their city limits, and neighboring Bay County recently adopted zoning as well.
Dotty Nist can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.