By ELIZABETH SINCLAIR
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS – Following a Dec. 5 planning board recommendation to forward CHELCO land change requests, the Defuniak Springs City voted to proceed with the matter at its Dec. 12 meeting.
CHELCO is asking the city to annex property next to its operation complex on U.S. 331 North which was annexed into the city in 1998. Because the property is in both county and city jurisdiction and, is, in part zoned residential, the changes require small scale amendments and rezoning, bringing the complete parcel into city limits. The Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO) corporation plans to move its offices, now located on Baldwin Ave., to the U.S. 331 property. The request involves five undeveloped parcels totally 7.27 acres south of the operation center.
Property owner Donel Davidson requested time to speak on the matter. He was advised by Mayor Bob Campbell that procedure requires a public hearing and advertising prior to approval. Davidson stated that he owns undeveloped property on Oakwood Lakes Blvd. across from the CHELCO property. He plans to construct homes there and is concerned that the CHELCO request will impact his plans. Wiley Willoughby, an Oakwood land owner and Twin Lake resident also expressed his concerns about the property being zoned industrial. Planning Director Kelly Schultz stated that, if approved, the light industrial zoning would allow for anything within that description, but reiterated the plans for offices. Also, CHELCO would have to get approval for planning and construction. The council unanimously approved advertising and a public meeting set for Jan. 9, the next council meeting for public input and amendment decisions.
Also on the agenda was a citizen’s request to address the council as to its recent resolution to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) regarding its possible plans for U.S. 90. from Coy Burgess Rd. north to the Alabama border. The council’s resolution stated that the city wished the U.S. 90 to remain essentially the same. FDOT’s plan would include widening the road, putting in grass medians, adding sidewalks and bike lanes. There are two alternate plans, both circumvent the city, One goes through the municipal airport.
Joe Johnson, a U.S. 90 businessman, asked the council to reconsider their resolution position. He agreed that the medians should remain as they are, allowing better access to businesses, but on the other issues, he considers the resolution, as written, would sway FDOT to consider the two alternatives as more viable. Additionally, he cited concerns of the project losing federal funding if the sidewalk and/or the bike lane aren’t included. He requested a more cooperative approach.
Eric Sconiers, third generation proprietor of Ed’s Pub Burger, approached the podium to address the council. His stated that that business would be jeopardized by the widening of U.S. 90. Due to its physical location, it would need to be moved back away from the highway.
After some council discussion, City Attorney Clayton Adkinson said he would revise the resolution to be more flexible and return it to the council at the Jan. 9 meeting.
A proposal to video transmit the council meetings, with cost estimates and numbers as to public viewing of the county’s broadcast was determined to be a budget issue and should be postponed until the city budget is reviewed in 2017. Currently City council meetings are available in audio on line by noon the next day.