DFS City Council discusses grants for city projects and land use amendments

PROPERTY OWNER Craig Thomas addressing the council about FLUM and Zoning amendment request.

Story and photo by STACY MARTIN

NOTE: This is Part Two of the DeFuniak Springs regular city council meeting held on May 10. Part One is published in the May 12 edition of the DeFuniak Springs Herald – Beach Breeze.

The second presentation from Dewberry was about the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program on the Asbestos Cement (AC) Watermain replacement project. Cliff Knauer with Dewberry stated that the city was awarded a planning grant from SRF for $207,000. Dewberry’s proposal for the planning stages to SRF was for $188,750. The planning includes facilities planning, hydraulic modeling for the water mains, environmental studies and geotechnical testing, and a wetland delineation. Knauer stated that SRF has the intent to fund the replacement of the water main.  The agenda packet noted once planning is complete, the project would roll over into design and then construction similar to the Clean Water (CWSRF) project for wastewater that is currently underway. The project can take several years to complete. Kanuer addressed council concerns over any possible asbestos or related material showing up in the testing reports, stating that usually, asbestos would not come from the pipe into the water; however, the pipe material can collapse or deteriorate over time. The lines have served their useful life and need to be replaced with current material pipe upgrades. Knauer also addressed the council’s concerns on tree replacement or relocation from any right-of-way, stating that during the design process, they would note any vegetation they would not want to disturb or any that have grown into the waterlines and have the opportunity to reroute the waterline, as long as it stays in the right-of-way. A motion was made to approve Dewberry’s proposal, which the council voted unanimously on to approve.

From administration was a request to approve the Park Master Plan for the beautification of all city parks, funded by the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The grant is for $50,000 with no match required. The city council approved going forward with the funding application.

From executive requests, Council member Tony Vallee made a motion to direct staff to identify routes, viability, and funding sources for a bike and pedestrian walking trail options, including sidewalks that will connect to west DeFuniak and sidewalks connecting to schools specifically along Baldwin Avenue and the railroad, including Live Oak Road. Identified funding sources would be sought out to conduct a study to look at implementing these options. Council member Todd Bierbaum seconded the motion. Knauer noted a couple of funding sources covering these projects, including the Transportation Alternative Programs (TAPS) through DOT and a two-year process. Another program is the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Greenways and Trail’s Recreational Trail Program. The council approved the request unanimously.  

The last item under executive requests was Vallee’s request for a motion for the council, in future decisions, to consider reconstructed wetlands as part of the city’s wastewater treatment system’s alternative to facilities-based wastewater treatment plants; and to identify sites, viability, and funding sources for reconstructed wetland projects in the future. The motion was seconded by Bierbaum and approved unanimously by the council. Bierbaum added a motion to direct staff to bring back to the council information regarding staffing on future wastewater treatment plants. The motion was seconded by Council member Henry Ennis and carried unanimously by the council.  

From the finance department, Debra Gibson presented an overview of the fiscal period from October 1 through April 30, 2021, budget summary. In addition to her overview, Gibson gave information from PFM financial advisors, who noted the historically low-interest rate, and the city should consider a bank loan to renounce bonds on Request for Proposal (RFP) on a contingent basis with no transaction fees made until a transaction successfully closes. Gibson asked for the item to be addressed at the next meeting and asked the council to direct staff to draft an RFP and return it to the council for consideration. The council approved the request unanimously. Another item Gibson addressed was that on May 17 at 4 p.m., the city will hold a special council meeting on their 2022 budget at city hall.   

Planning Director Chris Wallace noted that Craig Thomas had requested a small-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to change the designation from Low-Density Residential to Commercial on property located at 1667 Highway 83 North, about 15 acres. In February, Thomas was issued a notice from the city’s code enforcement because the land had been cleared and use for commercial purposes. Thomas stopped work and applied for the re-zoning. Wallace requested a motion to hold first reading on the proposed FLUM request. Council member Robert McKnight expressed concerns that re-zoning land that is zoned residential to commercial could eliminate future housing potential. Thomas was present at the meeting, stating that there are thousands of acres of residential property available in the city and hundreds of developed lots, but because of construction and infrastructure costs, it creates a problem for development. “I’m listening to the council discuss how the city has grown and has outgrown its current facility and has so many more employees. I’m in the private sector, and I have the same situation. All I’m asking for here is consideration of expanding an existing operation that has been here for 22 years in this city.”  Bierbaum made a motion to approve the first reading, schedule the second reading and public hearing at the June 14 meeting. The motion was seconded by Vallee and approved unanimously by the council, with the first reading conducted. The next portion of the request was a motion to hold first reading, schedule second reading, and public hearing of an ordinance adopting a zoning map amendment of the City of DeFuniak Springs Land Development Code for the same property. The council approved the request unanimously.  

Next item, Wallace noted that Bruce Naylor, on behalf of Jerold Derzak, has requested a small-scale amendment to the FLUM to change the designation from Low-Density Residential to Commercial for property located on the east side of U.S. 331 South, just south of Orange Avenue. The motion is to hold first reading, schedule second reading, and public hearing for the June 14 meeting. Council member McKnight raised the same concern over the lack of residential housing and the potential for this request to eliminate potential housing for the city. Council member Kevin Crystal raised the concern over traffic issues and single access with no turn lane into the property. Naylor addressed the concerns raised by the council, noting that with the property located on U.S. 331, there will be no residential interest in the property and even considering single-family dwellings on that portion of 331 is a safety issue. Naylor also notes other businesses are located on the highway that do not have a turn lane into the property. After discussion, the council approved the request unanimously.  

In addition to the FLUM amendment is the to the Zoning Map to change the designation from R-2, Medium Density Residential to C-2, Commercial. Wallace requested a motion to hold first reading and schedule second reading and public hearing of the zoning amendment at the June 14 meeting. The council approved the request unanimously.  

The last item was from Mayor Bob Campbell, who requested a motion to schedule a special meeting with the Walton County Board of County Commissioners to discuss the mobility plan at 4 p.m. on June 14, just before the regular council meeting. The motion was approved unanimously.  

The next regular DFS city council meeting is scheduled for May 24 at 5 p.m. at the county courthouse.