By DOTTY NIST
Among other county business, approval has been granted for two new store buildings, a replacement cell tower, final plats, and a set of amendments to the Walton County Comprehensive Plan (CP).
The approvals took place at the May 24 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) regular meeting for land use and planning items at the South Walton Annex.
Approved for a vacant 0.722-acre parcel at the southwest corner of the U.S. 98 Lynn Drive intersection in Santa Rosa Beach was the Sherwin Williams development project, consisting of a 6,902-square-foot building with associated infrastructure. The request was on behalf of Country Mart, L.L.C. Due to the project not meeting traffic concurrency, a proportionate fair share payment of $12,580 is required. Design Review Board approval was previously granted.
Approved for a vacant 1.88-acre parcel on the southeast corner of SR-83 and CR-1883 north of DeFuniak Springs was a 9,182-square foot Dollar General store. The applicant was property owner Teramore Development, L.L.C. A single-family home had previously been located on the property, according to the staff report, and a lot split had been approved by the county, along with a land use classification change from General Agriculture to General Commercial for the 1.88-acre portion. Traffic concurrency was determined to be met for the proposal.
Approved, as well, was a proposal to replace a temporary Verizon Wireless cell tower with a new 150-foot-tall cell tower on a 2 1/2-acre Regional Utilities-owned site that had previously contained a ground water tank, since removed. Verizon Wireless and Regional Utilities were the co-applicants. The new cell tower location is at 20 Sea Croft Drive, east of CR-393 and on the north side of CR-30A in Santa Rosa Beach.
All three development proposals were approved with all aye votes..
Surfsong Estates Right-of-Way Abandonment
The Surfsong Estates Right-of-Way (ROW) Abandonment garnered approval in a split vote after testimony, discussion and public comment.
The abandonment applies to the western nine feet of the 16 1/2-foot Surfsong Lane right-of-way in Miramar Beach, on 0.01 acre at the end of Surfsong Lane, adjacent to property owned by applicants Prime Investments of FWB, L.L.C. With the abandonment, 7 1/2 feet of the right-of-way section is to remain.
As is standard, Walton County Public Works recommended against the abandonment.
Engineer Ed Stanford, a representative for the applicants, explained the BCC had previously abandoned a corresponding right-of-way area on the adjacent lot. He said the request was to provide space for enjoyment of a pool and deck. Stanford told the commissioners that no vehicular traffic came through the area proposed for abandonment and that utilities were already in place without use of the abandonment area.
Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director, did not recommend for or against the abandonment but commented that he was not sure would be the likelihood of the county making any use of the proposed abandonment area.
The abandonment was approved 4-1 on a motion by District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander, with District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper voting no.
Approved final plats and replats included the Alys Beach Lot PP2 & PP3 Replat, applying to two lots in the south Walton County development, and the Peach Creek Phase 5 Plat, applying to the final phase of the subdivision.
The latter, requested by D.R. Horton, was for 53 single-family lots on 18.42 acres east of Old Ferry Road and south of Coochee Road in the Peach Creek area.
County Commission Chairman Bill Chapman brought up conversations with neighboring residents who, he said, had understood that a second access would be provided via McKinley Street as part of the development. However, the second access is not in place and the plat proposal did not include it.
Engineer Jim Martelli, representing the applicants, commented that the multi-phase development had been approved many years ago without the requirement for a second access.
Carpenter told the commissioners that there would be no way to add new requirements such as the second access at this stage.
District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson motioned for approval of the plat.
Comander asked what would happen if the BCC did not approve the plat.
Carpenter indicated that the question before the commissioners was whether the plat, as presented, complied with the previous approval for the development.
Comander then seconded “regretfully.”
Chapman said community members had told him that D.R. Horton would not respond when they tried to contact the company with their concerns. “They’re not making many friends with what’s happening out there,” he said.
Anderson observed that it was the BCC’s responsibility to vote on whether what was proposed complied with the Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. “I don’t like it,” he said.
Anderson said he could understand residents being angry if they had been told that there would be a second access.
“The right thing to do would be to meet with the community,” District 2 Commissioner Cecilia Jones said, speaking of the development company.
A vote was taken on Anderson’s previous motion. It was approved in a 3-2 vote, with Anderson, Chapman, and Comander voting in favor and Jones and Nipper voting no.
Chapman urged Martelli to take the BCC’s comments to the development company.
Comander observed that sometimes working with the community and listening, “goes a long way.”
“It will behoove them to work with this board and the people,” she added.
Martelli agreed to do as the commissioners had requested. He said the applicants had never heard about the second access issue until a month or two earlier. He described the Peach Creek development as well thought out and well planned, adding that some of his company’s employees live in the subdivision and like living there.
Continued to the June 25 BCC meeting were the Seaside Post Office Plat and the Stonegate Subdivision Plat.
Transmittal hearing for Comprehensive Plan Amendments Part 3
The commissioners voted to transmit a set of CP amendments to state and federal agencies for review. These are amendments to the CP Solid Waste Sub Element and the Future Land Use Map (FLUM)
Kristen Shell, county planning manager, indicated that the first amendment consisted of non-substantive, “clean-up” changes to update the element. The second consisted of changes to the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) since the last transmittal. The changes are related to implementation of county-wide zoning standards as part of the ongoing CP/Land Development Code (LDC) Update process.
Information on that process is available on online at www.waltoncountyplanupdate.com
First reading of Land Development Code Amendments Part 1
The commissioners voted to move these amendments forward to a second required public hearing. The amendments were to LDC Chapter 4, Resource Protection Standards. They would establish a density bonus for wetland and natural community restoration in large-scale planned unit developments (PUDs) and create a maintenance permit process for preserved natural areas.
Shell outlined additional proposed revisions, including language encouraging developments to put preservation in common areas rather than on lots—and codification of current practices for issuance of land clearing permits. The latter would feature information being provided on buffers and other areas required to be left uncleared to property owners wanting to clear property for sales or similar purposes without a development plan. This would not change the process for building permit issuance, which automatically includes a clearing permit, she explained.
The proposed amendments were tentatively scheduled for the second public hearing on June 12.
U.S. 331 Economic Development Corridor Plan workshop
The May 24 BCC meeting included a workshop on recommendations for the U.S. 331 Economic Development Corridor Plan.
The plan is focused on proactive planning for the newly-widened corridor and includes recommendations related to economic development, land use, and infrastructure. A study that was the foundation for the plan was funded through a $40,000 Community Planning Technical Assistance Grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).
In March 2018, the BCC amended an existing contract with the Matrix Design Group providing for planning services by the company in connection with the corridor plan. Several public meetings were held in March and April in connection with the planning process. Proposed corridor plan recommendations also went before the Walton County Planning Commission on April 16.
The recommendations encompass a list of goals and related objectives.
Shell discussed some of the more specific recommendations, including the removal of locational criteria for mixed-use developments, a redrawing of the tax increment financing (TIF) district for the corridor to better match it with appropriate areas for development, and a focus on more industrial uses near Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), along with height restrictions near Eglin as requested.
There are other recommendations, she continued, to “facilitate land use changes” along the corridor by providing for those changes to be through a local government rather than a state process.
“Make it as simple as possible,” agreed Chapman, suggesting a similar procedure within the corridor TIF as the one used in connection with the Mossy Head Industrial Park.
Shell continued with recommendations for a “fast track permit” process for review of development proposals along the corridor, using a framework that would not include all the public hearings that are generally associated with development permit approval in Walton County.
Anderson said he heard from companies wanting to locate or develop in Walton County, “It’s so hard to get it done.”
Shell responded that the public meetings that are required for applications “add a lot of uncertainty and risk,” as well as taking time.
Comander said she believed in fast-tracking but asked if the public would still have the ability to speak on proposed developments. Shell responded that they would have this ability, although not at the development order stage.
In other discussion, Jack Kiger, a community planner with Eglin AFB, thanked Walton County Planning and Development Services for including Eglin as a partner with the plan. He urged for it to be ensured that land uses not change in the corridor area to some that would be incompatible with Eglin, in order for the air force base not to lose capabilities.
Camp Creek area resident Bob Brooke complimented the planning department on the effort and suggested a focus on ways for Walton County to develop its economy in a competitive manner. He also spoke in favor of locating two recommended activity centers in proximity to U.S. 331.
Seagrove resident Leigh Moore spoke in support of one of the recommended objectives, aesthetics requirements for the corridor from Owl’s Head south. Corridor standards can help with fast-tracking, she suggested.
While these standards would not need to be as stringent as those applying in south Walton County, they could produce a much better “feel and look” for the corridor, Moore commented.
The second required workshop for the corridor plan recommendations is scheduled for June 12 in conjunction with the BCC meeting on that date.
The planning commission will also be asked to furnish recommendations on June 16 in connection with associated draft text amendments to the CP, with a formal transmittal hearing on the amendments to take place at the July 10 BCC meeting.
Information on the U.S. 331 Economic Development Corridor Plan is available online at www.walton331corridor.com.