Freeport City Council hears Blueberry Road update, grant information, and approves RFQs

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL

The Freeport City Council held its regular meeting on Oct. 26, 2023, at the Freeport City Hall. Council member Elizabeth Brannon was not present. 

Anne McKensie, Recreation & Events Coordinator, received approval to have the fees waived for Flag Football starts on Nov. 20 and will run through Feb. 15, 2024 

City Manager Mark Martin reported that they had sent out requests for bids on the sidewalk project. Approval was also given to begin the eminent domain process on the Wilkerson Parcel. 

Walton County Sheriff’s Lt. Bart Smith spoke concerning Blueberry Road. He said they called it a “cut through road” being convenient for people trying to get to the school and other places. Deputies  wrote tickets for 13 people in the last two weeks. Smith said they recently moved their message board there, which has multiple functions. It can count traffic and discover the speed at which people were driving, along with other messages. It could be used instead of a traffic study which is expensive, and the road is short. The board he uses is shared with the north end of the county. 

The council approved no utility cutoffs for November and December. The new disconnect policy goes into effect Nov. 1.

Samantha Graves, Senior Planner, spoke concerning the Owl’s Head Farms North Mixed-Use PDP (Preliminary Development Plan). The variances requested were:

• that the recreation be provided throughout the entire Owl’s Head Farms Development area to include Owl’s Head Farms South PDP and Owl’s Head North PDP. 

• requesting all R-3 uses permitted in 3.05.06 of the LDC (this would allow for apartments not located above 1st floor commercial) (Land Development Code-LDC)

• requesting all RC uses permitted in 3.05.07 of the LDC.

Jim Martelli, Innerlight Engineering Corp, made a presentation representing Doug Duncan, Owl’s Head Commercial LLC. Project description: Mixed Use Planned Development Project on 86.53 acres: 722,007sf office, retail, restaurant, motel/hotel lodging, warehouse, gas station, etc., and 747 multi-family units. 8/16/2023: revised to 500,000sf of commercial space. The council approved. 

Planning Director Latilda Hughes-Neal was told by Uriah Mathews, WCEDA Executive Director, that there was a grant potentially available – the Defense Infrastructure Grant, to help fund a traffic light at 883W or Bay Loop and Hwy 20. The DOT has some funding available, but not all. The council agreed to provide a letter of support. 

Approval was given to re-advertise for a RFQ (Request for Quote) for Marquis Way West extension. This would cover the road construction and approaches to the bridge. 

The city acquired an acre and a half on 3280 from Chandler Huff to build a water tower. Approval was given to advertise for a RFQ for the planning and development of the water tower. They also approved a RFQ for the water line extension for the 3280/Black Creek area including Nature View. 

The council discussed the new Community Center and all the site work. Samantha Graves spoke and explained about the cost. The original cost was $1.4 million for the building. Adding in the governmental access building, parking area, and the planning department parking area bringing the estimate to $2.5 million. Hughes-Neal presented plans to add those additional items into Phase 2. The council approved to RFQ for the entire project. 

City Attorney Clay Adkinson presented a second reading for the Huff annexation which was approved. The second reading for the King annexation was held to re-advertise and table. Part of the property was carved out and not to be annexed into the city. 

The council approved the 2024 calendar with the exception of having off Dec. 24 and 25. The November 23, 2023, and December 28, 2023, meetings have been cancelled. 

Tim Ard announced the Veterans Day Celebration for Nov. 10, 2023, at 2 p.m. at the Freeport Veterans Memorial at Casey Park. He also announced his plans to have a statue made of an angel welcoming a soldier into heaven and calling it, “Angels Among Us.”