TRC advances requests for large subdivisions, apartments, lodging, rezonings, and PUD amendment [PREMIUM]

A RENDITION of apartment units proposed for the Bristol Conceptual Planned Unit Development (PUD), one of the projects coming before the Walton County Technical Review Committee on Nov. 2.


The Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) recently took up proposals for two large north-of-the-bay single-family-lot subdivisions, a large apartment project in the Peach Creek area, and limited lodging on J.D. Miller Road, along with rezonings and a planned unit development (PUD) amendment. The committee members took action to move all these requests forward in the county review and approval process.

The committee met on Nov. 2 at Freeport Commons

The Acres

The Acres is a single-family subdivision proposed for 64.61 acres the north side of U.S. 90, east of King’s Lake Road and west of DeFuniak Springs, consisting of 87 lots, a clubhouse and infrastructure.

The property is currently mostly pasture with wooded areas, according to the project staff report.

Introducing the project, Kelly Schultz of Walton County Planning and Development Services indicated that the project had been reduced from what was originally proposed, with 104 lots reduced to 87 lots—and that a day care center, office, and mini-warehouses had been removed from the proposal. The clubhouse is to be 2,750 square feet as currently proposed, and there is to be no commercial on the site.

The property is in a Commercial and Rural Residential future land use area and a General Commercial and Rural Village Zoning District. The applicants are Norwal Development L.L.C.

According to the staff report, there is 0.35 acre of wetland on the site and no impact is proposed to the wetland. There are to be two driveway connections to U.S. 90 for the project. The project is to use septic systems and public water.

The 3.97 acres of native sandhill community on the property is to be subject to 25 percent preservation per Walton County Land Development Code (LDC) requirements

Schultz said the applicants were working to address outstanding reviewer comments from Walton County Public Works/Environmental, Walton County Planning, Walton County GIS, Eglin Air Force Base, and Liberty Fire Department..

Sidewalks had been included in the project plans along U.S. 90 per LDC requirements, but the state Department of Transportation (DOT) had advised that DOT did not support placing sidewalks in state right-of-way where no sidewalk currently exists. After being advised of this, the applicants had requested a sidewalk exemption. Later discussion had resulted in a sidewalk being added to the plans in an adjacent area on the development site rather than in the state right-of-way.

The committee members approved the project to move forward in the process on the condition of all outstanding reviewer comments being addressed. The next step is to be review by the Walton County Planning Commission.

Black Creek Estates

The other large single-family subdivision coming before the committee at the Nov. 2 meeting was Black Creek Estates, consisting of 174 lots on 87.3 acres located on the east side of Black Creek Boulevard and north of Joyce Lane, east of Freeport. This request by C&R Freeport Properties, L.L.C., is for a conceptual planned unit development (PUD) in connection with the proposal.

The property is in a Rural Residential future land use area and a Rural Village zoning district.

Representing the applicants, Tina Ekblad, certified planner, noted that the project had not been engineered at this time, with detailed project plans to be provided later during the PUD approval process.

The project came forward with a number of requests for deviations. These included: Allowing wetland buffer areas to be less than 25 feet in some sections while maintaining the overall width of the wetland buffer at 25 feet; relief from providing half of required sidewalks along two right-of way sections; relief from the requirement to provide a cul-de-sac on right-of-way beyond 300 feet in length in favor of a “t” or “y” type roundabout; reduction from the required 175 feet of separation along arterials roadways to 123 feet, and allowing for detailed plan submittals for the PUD to undergo minor development review rather than major development review.

Both public water and sewer are available for the project, according to the project plan review, and the property is vacant and vegetated, containing 30 acres of wetlands, according to meeting materials.

The committee members voted to advance the request to Walton County Planning Commission review on the condition of all outstanding reviewer comments being addressed.

Bristol Conceptual PUD

Review at the Nov. 2 TRC meeting was also the first step for a proposed conceptual PUD for the 24-acre Christian International property on the north side of U.S. 98 east of Peach Creek. This PUD proposal is for 408 multi-family units (apartments and townhomes) and infrastructure with 20 percent income restricted (affordable) units.

In July 2022, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) had approved an amendment rezoning the property along with additional acreage south of U.S. 98 to General Commercial, setting the stage for elements of the PUD to come forward for consideration.

Representing the applicants, Melissa Ward of Dunlap & Shipman explained that deviations proposed for the request had been trimmed down to two. One of those was a setback deviation on the east side of the property partly for the purpose of shifting development further away from Peach Creek. The other stated purpose was for putting in some additional piping and stormwater management to handle flow from a 10-foot berm on adjoining state property that had come from spoils from the Intracoastal Waterway. The second requested deviation was to allow review of future detailed plan submittals to under minor development review rather than Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approval being required.

Barbara Morano, representing the South Walton Community Council, raised technical concerns about the proposed PUD. She urged for plans for this “huge apartment complex” to undergo major development order review rather than the minor development review that the applicants were requesting. Morano also voiced concern about the lack of public benefit associated with the PUD other than the 82 affordable units that would be provided. She noted the absence of walking trails, fishing from the dock, and other features that could be of use to the public.

Morano asked about the lack of a second emergency access to help residents of the development get out in the event of an emergency. She also called for not advancing the project until a review and comments from the South Walton Fire District (SWFD) had been provided, as these were not available.

Vanessa Carpenter, a resident of the neighboring Peach Creek development, also raised safety concerns in connection with one entrance and exit for the PUD property and called for the SWFD review to be furnished.

Ward responded to the public comments, explaining that she had spoken with Sammy Sanchez, who does the SWFD reviews, and that he had indicated that he had not yet had time to do the review. She also explained that the applicants had been working with the Florida Forest Service to arrange for a second exit for emergency access across the forestry property adjacent to the site. She noted that the exit would not go through the adjacent Florida Power and Light easement, as that company did not want the easement used for a road.

Ward also spoke of a commitment made by the applicants after community meetings about the project, providing for four-story apartment buildings to be moved as far away as possible for the neighboring residential area.

The committee members voted to move the PUD forward to review by the Walton County Planning Commission subject to all outstanding reviewer comments being addressed.

Osprey Pines

Osprey Pines would consist of 116 limited lodging units on 3.12 acres at 830 J.D. Miller Road in Santa Rosa Beach. The applicants are Susan and Bruce Paladini. 

The property is in a Mixed Use future land use area and a Coastal Center Mixed Use zoning district.

Representing the applicants, engineer David Forstrom explained that redesign had been undertaken and completed after the applicants agreed with the planning department on the classification of J.D. Miller Road now as a major collector road rather than a minor collector. He said the result was that this development would have the largest right-of-way protection zone of any development on J.D. Miller Road.

The development would replace a single-family home and accessory structures currently on the property, which would be removed.

According to a plan review for the project, it would include a four-story multi-unit building, 19 two-story cottages, 128 parking spaces, driveways, sidewalks, a community pool and infrastructure.

Chat Holley Road-area resident Margaret Landry voiced technical concerns about the density of the development and commented that it would not be compatible with the surrounding residential areas. She was of the opinion that other neighborhood-serving commercial uses would fit in better with the area than what was being proposed.

Forstrom responded that the zoning of the property would allow for shopping center, restaurant, bar, RV park or other uses but that the applicants’ intent was to go with limited lodging in order to keep the property lower density with “a residential look to it.” He explained that there would be landscaping along all sides of the property and that the applicants had “gone above and beyond” with stormwater management.

Also speaking for the applicants, Melissa Ward explained that the current zoning on the property had been obtained many years ago with the intent for an RV park that was never developed. She emphasized that the property was zoned for commercial use such as the one proposed. She agreed to taking a look at landscaping and appearance of the units with an eye to enhancing the aesthetics of the development.

The committee members voted to advance the request to Walton County Planning Commission review subject to any outstanding reviewer comments being satisfied.

South Shore Rezoning

South Shore Rezoning was one of two proposed rezonings taken up at the Nov. 2 meeting. This is a request for a zoning district change from Conservation Residential 1:2.5 (one unit per 2 1/2 acres) to Conservation Residential 2:1 (two units per acre) on 15.15 acres northwest of the intersection of Joy Lane and Indian Woman Road.

South Shore Partnership are the applicants.

According to the project staff report, with approval of the request 60 percent of the site would be required to remain in open space, which would protect the onsite wetlands that make up 49 percent of the site. In addition, there would be special development standards for the site in connection with the floodplain area, historical water flow, and wetland protection. “The proposed change will result in cluster development on approximately 40 percent of the overall site or approximately 6.88 acres, for an effective development yield of approximately 5 units per acre,” according to the report.

Introducing the request, Walton County Planning Manager Kristen Shell commented that the effect of the change would be to change the allowable density on the property from six units to 34 units. It was her opinion that the development standards contained in the staff report are “protective in nature, and that the request is generally consistent with the comprehensive plan (Walton County Comprehensive Plan).”

Among several attendees voicing technical concerns was Lisa Veiga, who spoke of potential environmental impacts on wetlands on the site and on the nearby Choctawhatchee Bay.

Speaking on behalf of the South Walton Community Council, Margaret Landry told the committee members that it would not make sense to rezone the property to a higher density. She noted that this is a low-lying environmentally-sensitive area near the bay.

Speaking on behalf of the applicants was attorney Sasha Eastburn, who noted that the property owners had owned the property for some time and were considering developing it themselves. She said the reason for proposing the change was to maintain the green space on the property when it is developed. Eastburn said the intent is to make sure that development on the property fits with the surrounding areas.

The committee members voted to move the rezoning request forward to planning commission review subject to any outstanding reviewer comments being addressed.

Harvest Creek LSA

The other rezoning request was Harvest Creek Large Scale Development (LSA), consisting of a proposed change from a General Agriculture future land use to Rural Village and a zoning district change from General Agriculture to Rural Village on 91.97 acres located on the south side of SR-20, just west of Bunny Lane, east of Freeport.

C&R Freeport Properties, L.L.C,, are applicants for the request.

According to the staff report for the request, the intent is to subdivide the property and sell it in the future, and there is a proposed PUD for the site with a master plan for 82 residential lots. The report also notes that the change would increase allowable density on the property from one unit per 10 acres to two units per acre.

Introducing the request, Kristen Shell noted that the change would increase density and intensity in the floodplain and that 41 percent of the property is in the floodplain. She said that for that reason staff was recommending that a developer agreement accompany the project. Shell said staff’s recommendation was to move the request forward on that condition.

A representative for the applicants noted that a conceptual PUD application was “tracking behind” the request and that the intent was to bring that application for review in December. She noted that the development footprint was entirely within the uplands and out of the floodplain area, adding that the applicants were proposing to provide central water and sewer.

The request got the committee’s green light to advance to planning commission review, subject to outstanding reviewer comments being satisfied.

Forest View Village

Also advanced by the committee to planning commission review was the Forest View Village PUD Amendment #5, a request on behalf of MH Forest View, L.L.C., to reallocate commercial square footage within the 37.24-acre Forest View commercial PUD property. The location is the north side of U.S. 98, west of Serenoa Road and east of M.C. Davis Boulevard in southeastern Walton County.

Introducing the request, Tim Brown of Walton County Planning and Development Services explained that the amendment would increase the square footage for supermarket use from 51,245 square feet to 61,124 square feet and reduce the number of gas station/convenience store gas pumps from 16 to 8.

According to the staff report for the request, the changes would provide for an overall increase in commercial square footage of 8,274 square feet for a new overall total of 172,874 gross square feet, which would be less than the 180,000 gross square feet originally approved in 2006 and most recently amended in 2022.

Speaking for the applicants, engineer David Smith said the reduction in gas pumps in the plans would put the number of pumps at what was currently in place at the Tom Thumb store on the property.

He emphasized that the amendment was for an internal re-allocation of intensity within the PUD that would not increase traffic trips.

Projects moving to development order issuance

Several minor development projects got votes to move forward to development order issuance upon satisfaction of outstanding reviewer comments, with one of those required to go before the Walton County Design Review Board (DRB) in advance of that issuance.

The first of those was Clay Garden Cottages, a request by Clay Garden & Gifts in Seagrove to place four historical cottages on their 0.35-acre property at CR-30A and Belmar Drive. The cottages are to serve as greenhouses.

Also approved was the Watersound Parkway Expansion, a request on behalf of The Watersound Company to expand Watersound Parkway North one mile east to the Bay County line. The roadway expansion is to include two 12-foot travel lanes, 22-foot-wide swales, a 12-foot-wide golf cart path on the north side, and a 10-foot-wide multi-use path along the south side. Stormwater management, including two stormwater ponds, will be included with the project as well.

The third minor development project garnering approval, pending review by the DRB, was Express Oil Change, a 5,672-square-foot minor auto service business proposed by Express Oil Change and Tire Engineers for a 0.92-acre site at 2038 U.S. 98 West. The project was introduced by Tim Brown, who explained that the business would be located on the western out parcel for the Publix Shopping Center in Santa Rosa Beach.

Plat requests moved forward

Two plat requests taken up at the meeting will move forward to final consideration by the BCC subject to the addressing of any outstanding reviewer comments and receipt of mylars for signing by the BCC chairman.

The first of these was the Ridgewalk Replat, providing for a reduction in the overall number of lots within Block B of the Ridgewalk subdivision on the east side of CR-393 South in Santa Rosa Beach. The reduction was from 74 to 64 lots on 19.46 acres, together with re-allocation of common area within the subdivision. The re-allocation of the lots and common area was for the purpose of providing for larger lots on the 19.46-acre portion of the subdivision.

The other plat request was Santa Rosa Townhomes Plat, consisting of the platting of 164 lots on 20 acres located on the east side of J.D. Miller Road, 1.76 miles north of U.S. 98 in Santa Rosa Beach.

Continued and tabled agenda items

Continued by advance request to the Dec. 7 TRC meeting were the following agenda items: The Overlook at Inlet Beach, Pearl Place Subdivision, The Landing at Santa Rosa, and The Preserve at Black Creek. Another agenda item, Casa Laura, was also continued to the Dec 7 TRC meeting after discussion.

The Sugar Dunes Estates single-family subdivision proposal was tabled.