By DOTTY NIST
The Sandestin Owners Association (SOA) has filed a legal challenge to Walton County’s recent adoption of an amended development order for the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact (DRI).
The SOA complaint was filed on May 9 in Walton County Circuit Court.
On April 11, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) had voted 3-2 for final approval by ordinance of a thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the Sandestin DRI development order. This was in response to the filing by Sandestin Investments, Inc., (SDI) owner of Sandestin Resort, of a Notice of Proposed Change (NOPC) application, plus another application applying to the 6.2-acre Jolee Island, to amend the DRI development order. A final order in connection with the NOPC application also received a 3-2 favorable vote at the April 11 meeting.
These approvals had set the stage for the county to again consider new project applications from Sandestin Investments, which had not been the case since June 2014, when the BCC had found the DRI not in substantial compliance with its development order. Among the results of the recent BCC approvals was that the DRI was again considered in compliance with regard to its development order.
The final BCC approvals on April 11 had been preceded by a BCC public hearing on the SDI applications that had been initiated on Jan. 30, and continued and concluded on March 13. The amendments and final order taken up by the commissioners on April 11 were presented by BCC legal counsel as consistent with actions taken by the BCC at the March 13 session.
The SOA complaint contends that the amended development order, consisting of the two DRI amendments and final order, “does not accurately represent the determinations that the (BCC) made at the conclusion of the public hearing held on January 30, 2017 and continued to March 13, 2017. Rather the Amended Development Order contains numerous overstatements and outright misrepresentations that are not supported by the record evidence or by state law.”
Among other arguments, the homeowners also maintain that the amended development order is inconsistent with the Walton County Comprehensive Plan (CP). Among instances of alleged inconsistency cited include the amended development order allowing high-rise residential construction in excess of Walton County’s 50-foot height limit for new construction—and its inclusion of common areas within plats, drainage easement areas, and road right-of-ways as open space, in contrast with the CP’s definition of open space as “undeveloped land suitable for passive recreation or conservation uses.” Another allegation states that density permitted as part of the amended development order exceeds that allowable by the CP’s for the property’s land use designation.
“The County’s adoption of the Amended Development Order adversely affects the SOA because it results in unmitigated impacts to major infrastructure that the SOA owns and maintains, including roadways and stormwater mitigation facilities,” the complaint concludes.
Requested from the court by the SOA is a declaration that the amended development order is inconsistent with the CP, invalidation of the amended development order, injunctive and other relief.
The SOA is represented by attorney Gary Hunter of the Tallahassee-based law firm Hopping Green & Sams.
There has been no responsive filing by Walton County at this time, and no court date has been set.
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