County board to reconsider Sandestin Mini Golf & Ferris Wheel

A FERRIS WHEEL and mini golf course proposed for Sandestin Resort will be under consideration by the Walton County Technical Review Committee at its May 20 regular meeting.

By DOTTY NIST

The Sandestin Mini Golf & Ferris Wheel proposal has been put on the agenda again for consideration by the Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) at the committee’s next meeting on May 20.

The project had been conditionally approved at the TRC’s Feb. 5 meeting but is being required to be brought back again for a rehearing. Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director, indicated that the reason for the rehearing was an advertising deficiency. This was related to the sign required to be posted by the applicants as notification for the hearing of the project.

The proposal was on the agenda for the TRC’s May 6 meeting but was continued to May 20 in order to allow time for the applicants, Sandestin Investments, L.L.C., (SDI) and Sandestin Resort developer Thomas Becnel, to work with the Sandestin Owners Association (SOA) about the location of the project.

The mini golf course and Ferris wheel are currently proposed for a 1.86-acre parcel within the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact (DRI), on the north side of U.S. 98 between the marina and the tennis courts, on Mike Hayes Drive. The DRI is a 2,000-acre component of the 2,400-acre Sandestin Resort property.

The last indication from county staff was that the Ferris wheel would be 62 feet in height.

As this is considered a minor development, the TRC will be the only county board required to vote on the project. The future land use classification of the amusements parcel is Mixed Use and the zoning category is Coastal Center.

Included with project documents at the Feb. 5 TRC meeting was an Oct. 22, 2019, agreement between Sandestin Investments and the Sandestin Owners Association (SOA), master property owners association for the resort, stating that the two parties agreed that Sandestin Investments would be allowed to build the Ferris wheel and mini golf course within boundaries shown on an exhibit attached to the agreement. The exhibit identified property located between the marina and the Village of Baytowne Wharf. The agreement had followed a Sept. 26, 2019, SOA Board of Directors vote of approval of the amusements, subject to conditions.

      The Oct. 22, 2019, agreement referenced a previous agreement in 2017 between the parties that had settled an administrative challenge by the SOA to Walton County’s approval of amendments to the Sandestin DRI. An amended version of the 2017 settlement agreement had included provisions related to the potential construction of amusements and attractions in the resort in the future, including the Ferris wheel. It had determined that Sandestin Investments would not be allowed to build any amusements or attractions within the DRI without mutual agreement of the parties. The agreement had further stated that mutual agreement of the parties would be required in writing for Sandestin Investments to construct a Ferris wheel at the Village of Baytowne Wharf.

In a March 16, 2020, letter on behalf of the SOA, attorney Gary Hunter stated that the project location as currently proposed is different from the one presented to the property owners before SOA had agreed in concept to the project.

Hunter wrote, in part, “The project as presented in the most recent application materials submitted to the County does not place the improvements in the areas agreed upon. This is a material change, and the SOA does not consent to its approval. Absent the SOA consent and under the plain terms of the DRI Development Order, the County may not approve this development order application.”

Also included with materials for the May 6 TRC meeting were a number of emails from homeowners in the vicinity of the project site that had been sent to the county in opposition to the proposal.

The May 20 TRC meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at the Freeport Business Park Boardroom. Physical occupancy at the meeting will be limited due to the COVID-19 emergency, but the meeting may be viewed on the Walton County website, www.co.walton.fl.us and participation will be possible by Zoom or telephone. Instructions for Zoom and telephone participation are available on the county website.