By DOTTY NIST
Gulf Place has been designated as one of the South Walton Tourist Development Council’s (TDC) “Visit South Walton” beach communities.
The decision took place at the TDC’s Sept. 11 regular quarterly meeting at the Bayou Arts Center, after considerable discussion among the council members and public comment from a number of Gulf Place residents and business people.
After Gulf Place’s request last December to be included as a TDC beach community, the TDC had established criteria for the addition of beach communities to their list.
Among the criteria are inclusion of a public beach access, frontage on the gulf, a civic area, and tourist rental accommodations. The designation of beach communities is for marketing purposes only.
Cindy Stenberg, Gulf Place association manager, made the case that Gulf Place was the “beach side” of Santa Rosa Beach and that the community deserved to be included on the TDC’s beach communities.
“We’re a community,” agreed Patti Schlotterlein of the Artists at Gulf Place. She noted that Gulf Place is a “gathering place,” also featuring housing, retail, and a local pharmacy.
TDC member Richard Veldman observed, “Santa Rosa Beach doesn’t have a beach identify in most people’s minds,” However, he pointed out a problem with three beach communities (Dune Allen, Santa Rosa Beach, and Blue Mountain Beach) already being designated as TDC beach communities within a stretch of just a few miles.
Dwight Ward of the Artists at Gulf Place suggested solving the problem by removing Santa Rosa Beach from the list of beach communities and replacing it with Gulf Place.
“Santa Rosa Beach doesn’t exist except for the post office,” TDC member Harry Millsaps commented. He noted that properties between Sandestin and Camp Creek Road all carry the Santa Rosa Beach zip code, and that east of that point as far as Inlet Beach there is a Panama City Beach zip code.
TDC member Steven Hilliard suggested having the TDC’s new advertising agency take a look at whether Santa Rosa Beach is really a beach community or “just a zip code.”
Dawn Moliterno, TDC executive director, noted that in the past there had been different numbers of TDC beach communities, at one time 18, then 13, now 15. Prior to the current TDC there had been no established standards for which communities would be included, she said. Moliterno said the communities are not marketed individually but as part of “Visit South Walton.”
Currently Miramar Beach, Seascape, Sandestin, Dune Allen, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove, WaterSound, Seacrest, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, and Inlet Beach are listed.
A motion to replace the designation of Santa Rosa Beach as a beach community with Gulf Place failed in a tie vote, with some members abstaining from the vote.
Approved with no nay votes was a second motion to include Gulf Place and have the new advertising agency evaluate whether or not to delete Santa Rosa Beach from the beach community list, plus evaluate whether the right number of beach communities are currently designated.
In another matter before the council, a TDC committee had evaluated the parties that had submitted bids for lifeguard/beach safety services, which are funded through the TDC budget. Four parties had bid, including the South Walton Fire District (SWFD), which has been contracted to furnish these services since 2006, when they were first provided in Walton County.
The committee had rated the SWFD highest, but its bid was also the highest at $765,000 for a one-year period, plus a cost of $74,000 for the additional ninth lifeguard stand in Miramar Beach that the TDC had voted to require….
Read the full story in the Sept. 20, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.