By DOTTY NIST
A Ferris wheel and mini golf course proposed for Sandestin Resort recently received final Walton County approval to proceed to issuance of a county development order.
On April 7 at Freeport Commons, the Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) voted with all ayes to approve the proposal, which had been some time in the works.
Applicants were Sandestin Investments, L.L.C., (SDI) and Sandestin Resort developer Thomas Becnel, who are to construct and own the amusements.
Approximately seven years earlier, the applicants had withdrawn a previous Ferris wheel proposal that had encountered community opposition.
There had been 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.
SOA approval has been deemed a requirement for the county to consider approval of the project.
Over a year ago, the Ferris wheel and mini golf request had been approved conditionally at the Feb. 5, 2020, TRC meeting. However, rehearing of the project was then required after Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director, indicated that there had been an advertising deficiency related to the sign required to be posted by the applicants as notification for the hearing of the project.
The following month, the SOA had withdrawn its previous approval for the project, stating that the location identified for the project had been different from one previously agreed to by the association.
Then, after meetings between the parties, a March 2, 2021, letter from a law firm representing the SOA noted that the SOA board had voted on Feb. 12, 2021, to withdraw its objections to revised plans for the proposal dated July 13, 2020. “Further, the SOA consents to the development of the site in the locations depicted on the attached plans,” according to the letter.
Introducing the request at the April 7, 2021, TRC meeting, Renee Bradley of Walton County Planning and Development Services noted that the project location was a 1.86-acre site at 8330 Mike Hayes Boulevard, north of U.S. 98 and just south of the Village of Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin.
The future land use classification for the property is Mixed Use, and the zoning district is Coastal Center.
Bradley referenced the letter stating the SOA’s withdrawal of objections. She also indicated that two outstanding comments associated with the request had been successfully addressed by the applicants by a lighting plan being furnished and hours of operation provided, with hours of operation to be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
It had previously been stated that the height of the Ferris wheel is to be 62 feet.
No member of the public participating in the April 7 TRC meeting in person or via ZOOM took the opportunity to provide public comment on the request, and the board members took a vote after brief discussion.
Since the Ferris wheel/mini golf course is considered a minor development, no other county board approval other than that of the TRC is required before issuance of a county development order for the project and for the project to proceed.