By DOTTY NIST
Voting to deny Seascape Resort’s request to remove 1.44 acres from the Seascape Development of Regional Impact (DRI), the county commission also approved a small scale amendment, a number of plats, and a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
The decisions took place at the Aug. 22 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) regular planning/land use items meeting at the South Walton Annex.
Seascape Resort DRI amendment request
Seascape Resort’s request for a DRI amendment to remove the 1.44 acres from the northwest corner of the 283-acre Seascape Resorts, Inc., DRI was met with strong opposition from residents and property owners within the DRI property, including a petition urging for denial of the request and the formation of an organization in support of Seascape residents and property owners.
The 1.44-acre property is classified as Mixed Use on the Future Land Use Map, and its zoning classification is Coastal Center. It is located on Seascape Drive, east of Holiday Road and south of U.S. 98 in Miramar Beach. Unlike much of the DRI property, the parcel has not been developed.
A number of citizens in attendance at the Aug. 22 meeting spoke in opposition, with some residents and property owners voicing concern that removal of the 1.44-acre property from the DRI would reduce their control over the use of the property by the resort. An attorney representing some residents also spoke against the request.
Representing the resort, attorney Mark Davis made the argument that removing the property from the DRI would benefit residents because development on the parcel would be required to comply with current provisions of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan (CP) and Land Development Code (LDC), which would include buffer and setback requirements. Development within the DRI is governed by less-stringent “grandfathered” standards. Davis also said that, if the property remains within the DRI, connectivity with the DRI would be a requirement, whereas this would not be a requirement with the parcel separate, resulting in less traffic within the DRI associated with what is developed on the 1.44-acre parcel.
County planning staff indicated that the amendment request would be consistent with the CP and LDC.
The “trade-off” for the resort proposing to be subject to the more stringent development standards was that the commercial development envisioned for the parcel would not “draw down” or reduce commercial entitlements within the DRI, since the parcel would not be within the DRI.
The fact that removal of the property from the DRI would allow for more commercial development elsewhere within the resort was another objection of some of the citizens addressing the BCC.
Representatives of the resort have indicated plans to develop the 1.44 acres as some type of commercial by combining it with a 50-foot-wide property fronting U.S. 98 that is within the Gulf Power easement and that resort representatives said they had plans to acquire.
The DRI amendment request did not include a development order proposal, but the latter would be required at a future date once a commercial use is decided on, if the resort follows through with those plans. No land use classification or zoning change has been requested or discussed.
After testimony, BCC and staff discussion and public comment, District 1 Commissioner Bill Chapman observed that approval would result in an increase in commercial intensity and indicated that he would be against it on that basis
“We know that the south end of this county has become in the seven years that I’ve been on the board, and the one thing we always hear from everybody is there’s too much density, too much intensity down here,” he said.
“The DRI,” Chapman continued, “had certain entitlements awarded to it back 40 years ago, and by pulling this out you don’t draw down those entitlements, and I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he concluded.
Chapman’s motion to deny was approved in a 3-1 vote, with County Commission Chairman Tony Anderson and District 2 Commissioner Danny Glidewell voting for the denial. District 4 Commissioner Trey Nick voted against the motion for denial, and District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper was not in attendance for the meeting.
In response to a question after the decision, Walton County Planning and Development Services Director Mac Carpenter said that no height limit applies to property within the Seascape DRI, which contains development over 20 stories. Fifty feet is the standard height limit for new development in south Walton County per the current LDC.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore
In other action at the Aug. 22 BCC meeting, the officials granted a request on behalf of Habitat for Humanity for approval of a 18,836-square-foot ReStore facility with retail, office and warehouse space on 10.12 acres at the northeast corner of the Veterans Road/U.S. 98 West intersection in Santa Rosa Beach.
Habitat ReStores sell to the public new and gently used building materials, appliances and furniture that have been furnished as donations. Profits from these stores are put to use toward Habitat for Humanity’s mission to end substandard housing.
The new facility is to replace the Habitat ReStore’s current south Walton County location on CR-393 South.
The request came forward with Walton County Design Review Board approval of color deviation providing for the use of a standard Habitat ReStore green accent color on the building for doorways and lettering on the building.
There was a condition recommended by staff for the addition of a western cross connection, with an eastern cross connection having been provided with the project plans. The recommendation included redistribution of landscaping that had been shown in the western cross connection area to elsewhere on the site.
A motion by Chapman for approval of the proposal with conditions recommended by staff carried 4-0.
Crystal Beach Development SSA, self storage approval
The commissioners approved a small scale amendment requested by Crystal Beach Development. providing for a future land use category change from Commercial to Industrial and Extractive Uses and zoning change from General Commercial to Light Industrial on two acres on the east side of U.S. 331 south, approximately 0.15 mile north of Sweetwater Lane, south of LaGrange Road near Freeport.
Representing the applicants, engineer Scott Jenkins explained that the site has an existing warehouse on it and that there had been a historic nonconforming light industrial use of the property by a concrete casings company. He said the property owners have a new tenant who wants to do cabinet manufacturing and that the owners wanted to do some improvements, prompting the request for the amendment to bring the classification and zoning into compliance.
The request was approved in a 4-0 vote.
Also granted was a request on behalf of Zack and Luke Williams for approval of Southeast Storage, a three-story, 61,275-square-foot building with 355 self-storage units on 4.01 acres already containing 150 mini-warehouse units and located one-half miles east of the Holiday Road/U.S. 98 intersection on the north side of the highway in Mirarmar Beach. The request had previously been approved by the BCC on March 26, but staff had inadvertently neglected to update the buildings’ square footage at that time, stating it as 43,375 square foot. For this reason, the request was brought back with the correct square footage as reflected in the application and documents.
Final plat approvals
The following final plats were approved by the commissioners: The Crest Plat, consisting of nine townhomes on 1.5 acres located at 2201 CR-30A West, on the north side of CR-30A, approximately 500 feet west of the CR-30A/CR-83 South intersection in Blue Mountain Beach; The Preserve at Paradise Cove consisting of 99 single-family residential lots on 75.96 acres located on the east side of Blake Drew Boulevard, eight-tenths mile north of U.S. 98 East, north of the existing Paradise Cove development in the Peach Creek community; and Alys Beach 2A, lots TO-T4, consisting of four residential lots on North Castle Harbour Drive, south of Nonesuch Way.
Continued to the 9 a.m. Sept. 26 BCC meeting at the South Walton Annex were two agenda items: Prominence Commercial – “The Hub” Phase 4 Plat; and Cypress Breeze Entrance Lot 5.