By DOTTY NIST
Final approval has been garnered for the new Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) Visitor Center and Administration Offices.
The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approved the final submittal for the new facility at the Aug. 27 BCC regular land use meeting at the Walton County Courthouse, with all aye votes of the four commissioners in attendance. The final plans were presented by TDC consultant Cliff Knauer of Dewberry.
The vote followed one approving the budget for the new building at the Aug. 25 BCC regular meeting, also at the Walton County Courthouse. The budget was presented by Knauer as well.
The new facility is to replace the current one at the corner of U.S. 98 and U.S. 331, and plans are to bring all TDC staff to one location at the new facility.
The project location is two acres on the west side of U.S. 331, south of the bay bridge. This will be on two parcels purchased by the TDC.
The building is to be 2 1/2 stories and contain approximately 22,000 square feet. At 98 spaces, parking is to exceed the required 80 spaces. Plans for wetlands on the property include a pond containing koi fish and turtles and a large courtyard for outdoor events.
No code deviations were requested with the proposal.
The commissioners approved a budget of between $9.2 and $11.4 million to get the new facility in place. Knauer explained that the cost would depend on contractors’ bids on construction price per square foot.
Knauer reported on Aug. 25 that only U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits were remaining to be obtained before proceeding with seeking bids for construction.
The current property in use by the TDC as a visitor center and offices is under long-term lease from the state. There have been conversations about the county continuing to lease the property and use it for other purposes.