TRC continues beach store proposal and Chat Holley rezoning, advances 10 other requests

LOCATION MAP for the proposed 30A Surf Club beach store proposed for the southwest corner of U.S. 98 and CR-30A in Inlet Beach.

By DOTTY NIST

The Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) has voted to continue a large beach store proposed for Inlet Beach and a rezoning proposed for property on Chat Holley Road for a month. The TRC advanced 10 other projects on their April 3 meeting agenda in the county approval process.

The meeting was held at Freeport Commons.

30 Surf Club proposed for Inlet Beach

30A Surf Club is a major development request on behalf of 1000 Highway 98 East Corp for approval to construct 11.468 square feet of commercial space on 0.75 acres at the southwest corner of U.S. 98 and CR-30A in Inlet Beach.

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

Tim Brown of Walton County Planning and Development Services introduced the project. He explained this was deemed a major development because the proposal called for amending the master plan for the development containing the parcel.

Brown said the subject location had previously been identified for restaurant use rather than retail use as was proposed. He listed a number of reviewer comments that had not been received and spoke of some comments remaining to be addressed by the applicants.

Brown said some reviewer comments had identified problems with the proposal, including that the building shown in the plans did not meet setback requirements for the lot. A scenic corridor-related comment, he added, had been that the building exceeded the allowable width for the U.S. 98 Scenic Corridor on which the parcel is located.

The parcel is part of a development that the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) had approved in March 2013 under the name of Inn at the Gulf. The approval had been for a 14,338-square foot, 125-room limited lodging development and restaurant on 5.74 acres.

The subject property had sold to the current owners, the applicants, in early 2024.

Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director, said, “I’ve got a number of questions about this particular development. I would like to ask that the realtor that sold this particular parcel send in a letter of support for the project; it will be the only one I received.”

Brown acknowledged having received a number of emails from the public about the project, approximately 25 since the committee’s packet for the meeting was prepared. He had printed out copies of the emails for the committee members and handed them out. These were entered into the record.

Carpenter stated that the current application “does not resemble” the project that the applicants had described at the pre-application meeting with planning staff. “The building is way too big; we’ve got setback issues,” he said, adding, “It’s going to require a complete redesign.”

Carpenter spoke of concerns related to comments received and also about consistency of the project with the original development plan that had been approved and with the Inlet Beach Neighborhood Plan.

“We’re more than doubling the size of the building;” he said of the plans presented, “I think that’s significant.” Carpenter called for continuing the request to the May 1 TRC meeting.

Representing the applicants, engineer Robert Carroll said, “You’ve made a recommendation, so we’ll take that time between now and then to meet with staff and go over it with the architectural team and get it planned out prior to the next TRC meeting.”

There was a motion to continue the request to the May 1 TRC meeting, and the motion was seconded and approved.

Inlet Beach resident Rich Jaffe came forward saying that he had hoped to be able to speak on the project.

Renee Bradley, TRC chair, noted that as a major development the project would be reviewed by the Walton County Planning Commission and the BCC, at which time public comments would be taken. She assured Jaffe that the committee had all the written comments from the public and that those had been made part of the record.

The registered agent for the applicant company and the officers are the same as those for Alvin’s Stores, Incorporated, which operates 15+ Alvin’s Island stores at beach locations in the state offering beachwear, souvenirs, jewelry, accessories, and other merchandise.

Jaffe said he had been hoping to get one question answered, that being whether what was being proposed was putting an Alvin’s Island store on the property. He assured the committee that, if so, “this issue will have a dramatic following.”

“I’m not sure it fits in any way, shape or form in the way it’s being projected,” Jaffe said of the request.

“I will echo your comments,” Carpenter said. He said that the store was not being presented as that particular brand but that “it resembles that use.”

Carpenter added that, where stores of this type have previously been approved in Walton County, “our experience is what we’re told at the development review stage is not borne out after the development is built.”

“We’re not going down that road again,” Carpenter emphasized.

Box SSA with Rezoning

Also continued to the May 1 TRC meeting after some discussion was the Box Small Scale Amendment (SSA) with Rezoning.

This is a request on behalf of Shadab Zafar and Jason Box for a change from a Conservation Residential to a Mixed Use or lesser category land use area and from a Conservation Residential 2:1 (two units per acres) to a Coastal Center or lesser zoning district on 8.79 acres on the south side of Chat Holley Road, one-quarter mile east of CR-393 in Santa Rosa Beach.

Stephen Schoen of Walton County Planning and Development Services introduced the request. He indicated that staff had received “a great number of public comments on this particular application,” all of which would be part of the staff report prior to the request moving forward.

According to the project staff report, the area for the proposed amendment is within one or more of the Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) Military Influence Overlay District routes or missile corridors. Schoen told the committee members that the air force base had indicated that they would like to see a land use restriction agreement placed on the site for the project. He reported that it appeared that the applicants were willing to accommodate such an agreement.

The committee members discussed concerns related to the large amount of wetlands on the property, estimated at approximately 6 1/2 acres by Schoen, along with a mosquito control ditch that is present there and buffering that would be required. Schoen commented that this would be “a very tight site,” no matter what is developed there. Carpenter pointed out that the county was proposing a major stormwater management facility a short distance from the site and called for evaluation of any interaction between the site and that facility.

An engineering representative for the applicants said they would be willing to implement a land use restriction that would leave the allowable density (16 units total) unchanged with the rezoning. He added that only minimal impact to wetlands was being contemplated.

Asked about the purpose for the proposal, the representative said it was for from eight to 12 pickleball courts and that the change would allow for a clubhouse and recreational use of the facility through memberships.

The proposal will require hearings before the planning commission and BCC. However, the committee members also approved a continuance to the May 1 TRC meeting to allow time for reviewer comments and those by Carpenter to be addressed.

Requests advanced to development order consideration

Six agenda items were moved forward by the committee to final determination by the planning director on development order issuance. This was on the condition of any outstanding reviewer comments being satisfied.

Among these was the Golf Garden Improvements, a request by Walton County to develop 1,406 square feet of park improvements on 10 acres at what is now known as Paradise Park in Miramar Beach.

This is to include a small parking area, walking trails, a small amphitheater/pavilion, and restrooms.

Other minor development agenda items advanced included: MMC Plastering, a request to develop a 4,800-square-foot warehouse/office space on 1.61 acres at 4277 State Hwy. 83, north of Cordie Redmon Road and DeFuniak Springs; the Kindness Pet Hospital Renovation, consisting of the addition of 1,532 square feet to the existing building for the business on 0.68 acres at 6744 CR-30A West in Santa Rosa Beach; TDNS Gordonia Way, a request to develop 19.204 square feet of commercial on 2.24 acres on the west side of Gordonia Way as part of Phase 2 of the South Walton Commerce Park north of U.S. 98 in southeastern Walton County; Walton Palm Estates Phase II, a 13-lot single-family subdivision proposed for 2.48 acres at the northeast corner of Walton Palm Road and North Walton Lakeshore Drive north of U.S. 98 in Inlet Beach; and The Garden at Peach Creek, a 3.060-square-foot commercial building proposed for 1.5 acres at the southeast corner of Hamon Avenue and U.S. 98, east of Peach Creek.

On the latter proposal, it was noted that the applicants had worked with the state Department of Transportation (DOT) on the location of the driveway and had located it as far east as possible, with DOT having given direction for the driveway to be centralized on the site.

Requests moving forward to planning commission

Two major development requests on the agenda were moved forward in the county review and approval process by vote of the committee, the next step being review by the planning commission.

The first of these is Nesius Light Industrial, a request to develop 120,000 square feet of office and warehouse space on 9.75 acres at 435 CR-393 South, on the east side of CR-393 and east of Rena Arnett Road, south of U.S. 98 in Santa Road Beach.

The other is BLS 331 SSA with Rezoning, a request to change the future land use from Rural Residential to Commercial or lesser land use and the zoning district from Rural Village to General Commercial or lesser district on one-quarter acre located 0.09 mile north of the Jolly Bay Road/U.S. 331 intersection, on the west side of U.S. 331, south of Freeport.

Plat requests

Two plat requests presented at the April 3 TRC meeting are to advance to final consideration by the BCC. The first of these is the Blu Wave Luxury Resident Plat, consisting of the platting of six townhome units on 0.85 acre on the east side of CR-30A, south of Blue Wave Drive in Blue Mountain Beach. The other is the Shores of Driftwood Plat (formerly known as the Driftwood Shores Plat), consisting of the platting of six single-family lots on 2.75 acres at the northwest corner of the Driftwood Point Drive/Harbor Mist Lane intersection in the Driftwood Estates subdivision.

Continued agenda items

Continued by advance request to the April 17 TRC meeting were the Villages of Santa Rosa Plat, the Lot 216 Subdivision, and the Dunkin Small Scale Amendment (SSA) with Rezoning.

McDonald’s Topsail was also continued to the April 17 meeting after some discussion to allow time for evaluation of the proposed driveway location and a resubmittal.

An additional item continued by advance request to the May 1 TRC meeting was 393 Business Park Phase 2.