By DOTTY NIST
The owner of a single-family residence adjacent to part of the Kaiya Planned Unit Development (PUD) is opposing the county’s approval of the mixed-use development, alleging that the approval was “inconsistent with the Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.”
The property owner and plaintiff, Tallahassee resident Edward M. Mitchell, filed his legal complaint against Walton County on June 10 in Walton County Circuit Court, in his own name and that of Mitchell Brothers, Inc., the company for which he serves as president and principal. His Walton County property is part of the Sand Cliffs subdivision.
Kaiya, a mixed-use development approved for a 28+-acre site on the east end of CR-30A, received a 4-0 vote of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on May 10. The main portion of the development site is at the northeast corner of the WaterSound Parkway and CR-30A intersection, with a 2.2-acre portion less than 100 feet in width extending from the south side of CR-30A to the gulf.
The latter portion has been referred to as the May property due to a history of ownership of the property by the May family.
The beginning of subgrade construction on the north side of the Kaiya property, in preparation for homes, was recently announced by Kaiya owners Romair Homes and Jason Romair, with home construction anticipated for 2017.
The Mitchell complaint is related to the southern portion of the development, where a single-family residence has been located for a number of years. According to the complaint, as acknowledged by the county, “The Kaiya South Parcel was approved for 16 attached dwelling units at the north end and a beach club building, swimming pool, cabana and three or four-story multifamily building constructed above a partially underground parking deck at the south end of the parcel. Units located on the south parcel include twelve townhomes, two of which are two-story, ten of which are three-story and four condominium buildings that are three stories in height.”
The northern parcel was approved for 148 residential units and approximately 138,562 square feet of commercial space including retail, office, limited lodging, health and fitness, civic, and back-of-house services.
The southern parcel is classified as Neighborhood Infill, according to the Walton County Future Land Use Map.
The Mitchell complaint cites Policy L-1.3.3 of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan, which sets forth purposes, criteria and requirements for Neighborhood Infill. It states, in part, “The Neighborhood Infill Future Land Use Category is designed to facilitate compatible development of unplatted or vacant parcels that total ten (10) contiguous acres or less within areas where the majority of the adjacent or surrounding land has been developed.”
Stated as part of the policy are uses allowed. It is specified, in part, that “(u)ses shall be primarily for single-family and multi-family residential and public uses…Commercial projects shall be limited to neighborhood-serving commercial uses which may be allowed if compatible with the surrounding neighborhood in use, size, character, and scale, and there is a demonstrated need for such development.”
Set forth among “Special Considerations” for Neighborhood Infill as part of the policy is that “density range for this land use category is (2) dwelling units per acre to a maximum of eight (8) dwelling units per acre. The determination of density appropriate for a neighborhood infill project shall be based upon a showing of the project’s place within the existing neighborhood being infilled, including the neighborhood’s ultimate size, boundary, and center, the functional relationship of the proposed project with the existing pattern of development, and the compatibility of the proposed project with existing uses, character, scale, density, and intensity of the area being infilled.”
“The clear purpose of neighborhood infill,” the Mitchell complaint alleges, “is to assure that new uses are compatible with adjacent developments.”
“In this case,” the complaint continues, “the existing adjacent development is the Mitchell residence and the Sand Cliffs subdivision.”
The argument is then made that, “The development approved for the Kaiya PUD and in particular the south parcel to be located on the Mays property, would have no functional relationship with the Mitchell home or the other single family residences in the Sand Cliffs subdivision. Moreover, it would be incompatible with the existing single family homes in character, scale, density, and the intensity of use. The approved uses thus authorize material alterations of the existing property which are inconsistent and violate the Walton County Comprehensive Plan.”
The Mitchell complaint also makes the argument that it would be likely “and in fact inevitable,” that the southern parcel, with the pools, cabanas and other development, would be used by “hotel guests, (and) vacation renters” from the northern portion of the property. It further alleges that the development order issued for Kaiya by the county does not specifically prohibit commercial or nonresidential use.
“The commercial use of these facilities clearly violates the setback and separation requirements for commercial use and plain policies of the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code,” the complaint continues.
The Mitchell complaint asks the court to, among other requests, bar the county from permitting construction on the southern parcel “until a plan of development that is consistent with the Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code is properly reviewed and approved.” Other requests include barring permitting of development on the southern parcel “that would attract and serve hotel guests and vacation renters” from the northern portion of the property, and reversing and invalidating the county approval for the use of the southern portion in a manner “inconsistent with the requirements” of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan (CP) and Land Development Code (LDC).
In an Aug. 15 response, Walton County denied that the approval of the Kaiya PUD was inconsistent with the CP and LDC. The county also maintained that the development order issued for the Kaiya PUD did in fact prohibit the part of the property south of CR-30A and next to the plaintiff’s property “from being used as commercial property.”
On Aug. 24, the court granted a June 28 motion by SBG-PR, L.L.C., as applicant for the Kaiya development order, to intervene in the lawsuit as a defendant, with full-party status.
A non-jury trial has been scheduled on the matter in Walton County Circuit Court on March 8, 2017 and to resume on March 15, 2017, with Walton County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Santurri to preside.