Proposed 79-unit unit residential development and two amendments get Planning Commission nods [PREMIUM]

AERIAL MAP showing the location of The Canopies proposed 79-unit residential development (MAJ 22-000014). The request came before the Walton County Planning Commission at its Oct. 13 regular meeting.


Taking up a proposed 79-unit residential development and two amendments on Oct. 13, the Walton County Planning Commission voted in favor of the three agenda items.

This was at the county board’s regular meeting on that date at Freeport Commons.

The Canopies

The Canopies was a request on behalf of SoWal TH, L.L.C., to develop 29 single-family homes and 50 townhomes on 20 acres located 1,100 feet south of Chat Holley Road, east of Old Blue Mountain Road and west of J.D. Miller Road in Santa Rosa Beach. The property is in a Mixed Use future land use area and a Town Center One zoning district.

Introducing the project, Stephen Schoen of Walton County Planning and Development Services discussed some “high points” of the request. He noted that the Walton County Land Development Code (LDC) and the Walton County Comprehensive Plan (CP) provide for some additional standards for developments in the Town Center One zoning district and that the proposed development had met those standards “to the highest extent possible.”

Schoen added that staff had found that the project application satisfies or is substantially consistent with the CP and LDC.

He also explained that the proposed development includes passive recreational use through a multi-use path with some abutting seating (benches), some dog park area, and some pocket park areas attached to the path. Schoen said parking was being proposed above the required standard.

Representing the applicants, engineer Bryan Osborn indicated that the path would be 10 feet wide and that the path and associated amenities would be open to the public. He also explained that there would be traffic calming measures such as speed tables in locations where people would cross the street for access to the public trail and amenities.

Osborn added that the stormwater plan would be designed to the maximum requirement, the 100-year storm event standard.

Asked about density, Osborn said the property’s zoning district allows from four to 10 units per acre and that 79 units are proposed. He explained that the applicants had tried to minimize impacts on the wetlands on site as much as possible, resulting in the density being “on the lower end.”

According to the environmental assessment for the project, there are approximately 6.2 acres of wetlands or surface water within federal and state jurisdiction on the property, and the project proposes to impact 0.98 acre of wetlands.

A proportionate fair share payment of $50,304.48 is to be required due to the project not meeting traffic concurrency.

In response to a question, Osborn said the choice to propose single-family homes and townhomes was based on demand in the community and to be more compatible with single-family type residential development on the west side of the property.

Planning Commission Chairman Lee Perry noted that 60 parking spaces over the requirement were being provided. “That’s impressive,” he said.

In public comment, adjacent property owner to the north Ivan Harstvedt brought up concerns and wanted to ensure that his family could put up a fence as a barrier to delineate between the multi-use path and his family’s property. He also spoke about potential traffic and stormwater drainage impacts of the development on the area.

Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director, commented that there are plans for a new north-south connector road between Chat Holley Road and US. 98, which should help with traffic issues.

Chat Holley Road-area resident Margaret Landry also spoke about traffic congestion and related evacuation concerns. She said she was aware of plans for Chat Holley Road to be widened but that the indication was that this might not occur until 10 years’ time. “There’s a lot of hurricanes between now and then,” Landry said.

She brought up the issue of existing flooding in the area and the fact that mitigation of wetland impacts for projects south of the bay is often done north of the bay, which does not help south Walton County. Landry also urged for leaving as much of the mature vegetation on the property in place as possible to assist with stormwater management.

Following some additional board discussion, Perry reminded the board members that the planning department had determined that the project meets all requirements of the LDC and CP. “So, our job is to pass it if it meets the land development code and comprehensive plan,” he said.

A motion for approval by Planning Commissioner Michael Harbin carried with all aye votes of the board members in attendance with the exception of Dan Cosson, who voted no.

Miller SSA with Rezoning

The Miller Small Scale Amendment (SSA) with Rezoning was a request on behalf of David Miller to change the future land use classification and zoning district from General Agriculture to Light Industrial on approximately 47 acres of a 57.06-acre parcel of which 15 acres are currently designated with an Industrial and Extractive Uses future land use classification and a Light Industrial zoning. The property is located on the south side of SR-20 East, across from Bunny Lane.

Introducing the request, Walton County Planning Manager Kristen Shell said the applicant’s intent is for industrial use of the property. She said staff had found the request generally consistent with the CP, although better consistency would be achieved with the installation of central sewer infrastructure to the site (which was not committed to).

Shell said the property is only partially encumbered with environmentally-sensitive land and does have sufficient infrastructure for the most part.

She continued, “It does contain lands adequate to achieve compatibility with surrounding land uses which are mainly agriculture and large rural residential uses, large lot rural residential. It is consistent with the goals and policies related to the U.S. 331 Economic Development Corridor Plan, which was adopted into the comprehensive plan by the board several years ago—and that promotes targeted economic development along this corridor. It does not increase density or intensity within the floodplain consistent with the comprehensive policy related to that.”

Shell also explained that Walton County is under allocated for commercial and industrial lands, a situation that creates a barrier for new businesses wanting to come into the county.

In response to questions, Shell explained that from a planning standpoint, a rule of thumb is that 30 percent of the land needs to be allocated for commercial/industrial lands in order to lessen the impact on the transportation infrastructure in an area by having work in close proximity to where people live. She said the allocation for this type of land use is “way under” that 30 percent in Walton County.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant was engineer Michelle Baker. She told the board members that the property contains about 18.5 acres of wetlands, which are located around the property boundaries. She was confident that adequate buffers would be possible around the wetlands.

Baker estimated that approximately 20 acres of the property proposed for rezoning would not be developable. She said the applicant’s idea for the property was to create an industrial park for businesses in the area. Baker said plans were for access to the property to be provided from one driveway.

Asked about the recommendation for connection to central sewer, Baker said the nearest sewer connection to the property is 4,200 feet away and that the applicant had been told that the lift station that would serve the parcel might need some upgrades if the property were to connect with it. She said the applicant would not be opposed to paying for sewer service but that it would not be economically feasible to pay to connect at that distance plus pay the unknown cost of the lift station upgrades.

Baker indicated that she had been researching commitments to sewer service by other proposed developments in the area that might help make sewer service to the property feasible.

Shell noted that, while sewer service would be a good idea for the property, it is not required by the CP for industrial land use. It was her opinion that with the level of development expected in the area of the property, sewer would be available in the future, potentially by the time the project envisioned for the property comes to the development order stage.

Asked about the type of development contemplated for the property, Baker said it would be a low intensity use. She noted that the applicant lives next to the property, “so he wants everything to be very nice.”

A motion to recommend approval of the request carried with all aye votes.

Hollow Lake Large Scale Amendment

The Hollow Lake Large Scale Amendment had received a recommendation of approval from the board members at their Sept. 14 meeting but was back for an abbreviated rehearing as a result of a public notice deficiency.

This was a request on behalf of Black Creek of Northwest FL for a future land use change from Residential to Commercial and a zoning district change from Urban Residential to Business Park on 165.33 acres on the north side of CR-3280, west of Black Creek Boulevard, south of Freeport.

Kristen Shell commented that the previous use of the property was as a borrow pit/sand mine, with some reclamation now taking place on the property. She said the applicant is wishing to construct a recreational vehicle park there if the rezoning is approved.

Shell said staff found the request generally consistent with the CP.

She said the notice problem had not been the applicants’ fault but had been due to a post office delivery issue.

Representing the applicants, engineer Dean Burgis said he did not think any dirt was being hauled off the property at this time and that the amendment was part of the plan for closure of the pit. He said he thought some land clearing debris was still being accepted on the site.

Chairman Perry recommended that the applicants check to make sure that any of the current activities did not violate a previous court order applying to the property.

Burgis agreed to check on this and ensure that there were no violations of the order.

In response to questions from a neighbor of the property, Perry noted that the request was for a rezoning and that the applicants would have to return for approval of any proposed development on the property.

The rezoning request again received a recommendation of approval from the board members.

Continued items, county approval process

Continued by advance request to the Nov. 10 planning commission meeting were the following agenda items: EB Development Rezoning, the Lakeshore Subdivision Conceptual Planned Unit Development (PUD), and the Lakeshore Subdivision PUD Overlay Ordinance.

Planning commission decisions on amendments and land use items are provided as recommendations to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners, which bears responsibility for making final determinations on these items in public session.