Freeport City Council discusses SOPs and new developments

By RUBY KEARCE 

The Freeport City Council met for its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 14. Parks Director Charles Bartlett approached the council regarding Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Bartlett said that the community pool did not have a SOP policy, so one was created for the staff to abide by. A motion was passed to approve of the SOP presented for the community pool by Bartlett. City Manager Mark Martin then approached the council for  approval of the easement agreement for the U.S. 331 South Lift Station and authorized for Martin or Mayor Russ Barley to sign the required paperwork. A motion was passed approving of the easement agreement for the lift station as well as allowing for the city manager or mayor to sign the needed paperwork.  

Freeport’s Senior Planner Samantha Graves then went before the council for approval to hold the first reading and advertise the second reading for the rezoning of the 437.5 acres on U.S. 331 from rural agriculture to residential commercial. Graves said that this property is currently vacant, as well as the parcels to the north, south, and east, with a small northwestern section abutting an industrial use property. The parcel to the west is a single family subdivision, Ashton Park, and the northwest section of the project abuts the future planned Ronnie Brannon Sr. Park. 

David Smith, engineer for the project with Innerlight Engineering, approached the board to give a presentation and answer any questions for the board. In this presentation, Smith explained that the property along with the parcels to the south of the property were annexed into the city in 2013 with an agricultural designation. Smith said that all but one of the surrounding properties are zoned some form of residential, making this agricultural zoning not consistent with the surrounding areas. Smith added that in 2016, the property to the south of this one received a Future Land Use change to Urban Development, which would be consistent with the city’s Urban Service Area Plan of U.S. 331 North. 

Smith said that between the years 2016 and 2018, the owner of the proposed property passed away, and in 2018 a rezoning for the property, specifically within the preserved planned development project, was completed. However, the rezoning was placed on hold due to the owner’s death. Since then Crews Holdings has purchased the property and are requesting the completion of the rezoning process to submit a Planned Development Project (PDP) for the property which would be the next step for the property. The PDP conceptual plan will include 529 single family homes, 113 townhomes, 456 apartments, as well as a 82,205 square foot shopping center. 

A few residents from Ashton Park came before the council showing concerns regarding one of the project exits proposed to go through a section of Ashton Park’s property, requesting a buffer between the two developments. Smith assured the council that the proposed exit going through Ashton Park is no longer part of the project, and the buffer will be considered. A motion was passed to allow for the approval of the first reading as well as advertising the second reading for the rezoning of this parcel from Rural Agricultural to Residential Commercial, with the only Nay vote coming from Councilmember Elizabeth Haffner.

Graves then went back before the council to request the approval of New Deal Townhomes by Business 331 Townhomes LLC, on the westside of Business Hwy 331, north of Sweetwater Village. There will be 64 townhome units and a tree buffer surrounding developments. A motion was passed to approve of the proposed townhomes. 

Tim Parson with Liberty Partners approached the council for approval of a letter of support from Mayor Barley for the Walton County Public Safety Communications System project application that is set to go before the Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. The letter stated: “as Mayor of one of the fastest growing cities in Florida, I understand the importance in ensuring communities have the adequate resources and infrastructure critical to ensure first responders can carry our vital emergency services,” A motion was passed to approve of the letter of support brought before the council.