Clearing done on property approved for mixed-use development

People bringing their recycling to the Walton County bins at the southwest corner of Moll Drive and U.S. 98 have been curious in recent weeks about extensive clearing recently done just to the west of the site.
In response to an inquiry, Walton County Planning and Development Services provided information on a mixed-use project approved for the property.
According to that information, approved by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on Jan. 22, 2008 was issuance of a final development order for a conceptual master plan for Rosa Del Mar, consisting of 71,050 square feet of retail, 91,900 square feet of office, 46,000 square feet of hotel, and 55,000 square feet of residential.
Minutes of the Jan. 22, 2008, BCC meeting indicate that wetland permits had been obtained for the site and that the applicants would seek water/sewer and driveway connection approvals from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
The project site consists of two parcels totaling 9.83 acres located south of U.S. 98 and west of Moll Drive.
According to the approval, the project was to be developed in nine phases, with technical review and approval by the county to be required for each phase. There have been no such approvals for phases of the development, although there has been a recent phase one submittal by the property owner, according to Blon Carter, Walton County development order inspector.
The parcels are currently owned by WSJS Florida, L.L.C., of Denver, Colo., according to Walton County Property Appraiser’s records.
Carter indicated that the county considers the previously-approved development order for Rosa Del Mar to be active. His understanding was that extensions of the development order had been applied for and approved to keep it in force.
Mac Carpenter, Walton County planning manager, said that the Rosa Del Mar property owner recently proceeded with clearing of the property because a state permit was close to expiration. He said that in addition to the development property some county-owned land was cleared and also some adjoining property owned by a neighbor.
Blon Carter commented that a DEP dredge and fill permit had been obtained for the whole of the property with the exception of preservation areas along U.S. 98 and on the south side of the 9.83 acres. He said the preservation areas were left in place with the clearing. However, he confirmed that the party clearing the property had used old flagging in place in the area that did not reflect the correct property boundaries, resulting in clearing of some adjacent property.
Carter explained that part of the unauthorized clearing had involved approximately one-half acre of county property, a wooded portion of the county parcel containing the recycle bins.
Other clearing, he said, had extended to property that is part of an adjacent storage and moving trailer rental business.
Carter said county planning’s environmental planner is working with the project applicants to create a remediation plan in connection with the unauthorized clearing. He anticipates that the plan will make up part of the phase one review.
In response to an inquiry to DEP about the parcels, Brandy M. Smith, external affairs manager for the DEP’s Northwest District, indicated the agency’s original permit was issued in 2006 and there had been a number of modifications and extensions since that time.
She commented, “Our compliance staff is working with the permittee and/or their contractors to address impacts to wetlands that were not within the permit limits. We are currently awaiting their assessment and proposal for restoring those impacts.”