Officials select firm for mobility fee study, take up plats and other business

A MOBILITY FEE study in the works for Walton County could pave the way for a new program providing for more flexibility in use of fees paid by developers for needed transportation-related improvements. (Photo by Dotty Nist)

By DOTTY NIST

Presentations for a mobility fee study, subdivision plats, and leasing of two units at the new county office complex in Freeport were on the agenda for the Jan. 24 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the South Walton Annex.

The commissioners heard presentations from two companies who had responded to the county’s request for qualifications (RFQ) for professional transportation services consisting of a mobility (impact) fee study.

The study is a requirement in order for the county to transition to a mobility fee program from the current proportionate share program, through which fees are collected in connection with developments that do not meet traffic concurrency standards.

In 2015, a Walton County Grand Jury empaneled by State Attorney Bill Eddins participated in an investigation on the operation of Walton County government and made recommendations for improvements in policies and procedures. Among those recommendations had been a study to determine whether the county should continue with its proportionate fair share program to fund improvements to road segments impacted by development—or to go to an impact fee program. One advantage anticipated in connection with an impact or mobility fee program is that it would provide for greater flexibility in the use of the fees collected.

Responding to the county’s RFQ to conduct the study were planning firms Nue Urban Concepts and Tindale Oliver. After hearing a 15-minute presentation from each of the firms, the commissioners individually wrote down their ratings based on the presentations. The ratings were calculated, with Nue Urban Concepts scoring 465 total points and Tindale Oliver scoring 460 points.

The officials then voted, based on those scores, to direct staff to negotiate with Nue Urban Concepts to bring them on board for the services.

In comments on the item by Bob Brooke, Camp Creek Lake resident, Brooke encouraged a focus on traffic solutions in connection with future growth of the area. He also asked about a time frame in connection with the study.

Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director, responded that a recent Department of Administrative Hearings challenge filed by the South Walton Community Council (SWCC), in connection with Walton County Comprehensive Plan revisions adopted by the BCC on Dec. 11, would delay the completion of the mobility fee study, possibly for several months. However he anticipated that some work on the study could take place in the meantime.

In other business, the commissioners approved a lease agreement for Stone Labs to lease two county-owned units in the Freeport Business Park (units 118 and 120) totaling 3,600 square feet, in order for the clinical laboratory business to get set up in Walton County. The contract provides for the company, upon termination of the lease or any lease extension, to begin construction of a new facility in Walton County—and to meet or exceed a $4 million annual payroll within 24 months after termination of the lease. Upon meeting requirements of the contract, the company is to be eligible for reimbursement of rent paid for the units.

Also approved was a $278,250 change order in connection with ongoing build out of the county-owned units in the business park in order to provide for readying the two units for use by Stone Labs.

Taken up at the meeting, as well, were several subdivision plat requests. The first of those, the Lakeview Subdivision Plat, consisted of the platting of 57 single-family lots on 19.52 acres between the east side of Thompson Road and the west side of Helen McCall Park. David Smith, representing applicants Seaside Acquisition Group, commented that the applicants had worked with staff to provide for a multi-use path from the property to Helen McCall Park.

Also approved were two plat requests in connection with the Alys Beach development, the first of those being the Alys Beach Phase 4, Lots Z-1 through Z-9 and Z21 Plat, consisting of the platting of 10 single-family residential lots on 1.69 acres within Block Z of the subdivision on the north side of West La Garza Lane. The other, the Alys Beach Block AA Plat, provided for the platting of eight residential lots on 1.22 acres on the south side of South McGee Drive.

The final plat approval was for the Beachside Estates Plat, providing for the development of five units on four lots totaling 3.11 acres at the south end of Beachside Drive in the Eastern Lake community.