By DOTTY NIST
Minor development subdivisions in Miramar Beach and Inlet Beach have been advanced to be considered for development order issuance by the county planning director, and a Santa Rosa Beach AutoZone will move forward to Design Review Board consideration. These were among the requests taken up by the Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) at its Nov. 1 meeting at Freeport Commons,
Crest Bay Cottages
Crest Bay Cottages was the most-discussed agenda item. This was a request submitted by Bill Pope on behalf of Crest Bay Development, L.L.C., for 19 single-family lots and infrastructure on five acres on the south side of Crest Drive near the bay, east of Ponce de Leon Street and west of South Shore Drive in Miramar Beach.
The property is in a Residential future land use area and a Neighborhood Infill zoning district.
Tim Brown of Walton County Planning and Development Services introduced the project. He spoke about a Walton County Public Works reviewer comment in the project staff report that the proposed drainage easement on the plans is located with a 16.5-foot public roadway and utilities easement. The comment called for the stormwater system for the project to be located outside the public easement. Brown said this segued into a Walton County Planning and Development Services reviewer comment requesting not putting a required landscape buffer in this 16.5-foot easement.
The project staff report stated, that per an Oct. 3 meeting between planning staff and the applicants,”staff wants natural landscaping to remain in the access/utility easement along the eastern and southern property lines. However, you cannot identify the required landscape buffer within the 16.5’ access/utility easement. The required 10’ landscape buffer must be measured from the access/utility easement and that area must be identified as common area and then the building setbacks are measured from that line.”
However, Brown observed that the Walton County Land Development Code (LDC) states that if there is a road between a project and adjacent property, no buffer is required. He said staff had not come up with an answer on the issue yet.
Representing the applicant was engineer David Campbell. He said that since the access and utility easement is on the south and east property lines, his opinion was that no buffer would be necessary/
Several neighbors of the property voiced technical concerns with the project, mainly with regard to compatibility and stormwater drainage.
Crest Drive resident Thomas Gallo pointed out that several houses built over the past few years are on lots at a minimum of one-half acre. He said his home, as well as his next-door neighbor’s is on a 1.25-acre lot.
Gallo indicated that the 19 homesites that were being proposed to be put on five acres with this project would double the number of homes on the street. “So we’re saying it’s incompatible,” he said of the project.
He saw the planning reviewer comment calling for the 10-foot buffer as an indication that the project was not compatible.
Gallo was also critical of the access/utility easement being only 16.5 feet in width, maintaining that it should be 20 feet in unobstructed width in the interest of safety, in keeping with South Walton Fire District reviewer comments.
Renee Bradley of Walton County Planning and Development Services, acting TRC chair, commented that staff had taken into account the 1.25-acre lots adjacent to the site and had some concerns about that. She said she was not particularly happy with how the compatibility analysis was done and had gone through the document with the planner assigned to the request and the planning director.
Bradley said staff was trying to ensure that the analysis meets code provisions, adding that at this time it appears that it does so. She said a site visit would be conducted at which there would be attention to concerns expressed by citizens. She thanked them for their input.
Cyndi Conley, a resident of neighboring Heron Pointe Court, provided photos and brought up issues with flooding in the neighborhood and the fact of water sitting on the project site. “It is a sponge that has taken care of water for many years for use when we have a rain event,” she said.
Conley called for more attention to where the water would go during rain events with 19 cottages being constructed on the site. She also complained that density for all the development projects planned throughout the community was making south Walton County unlivable. Conley was also of the opinion that the project was incompatible.
Speaking for the applicants, certified land use planner Allara Mills-Gutcher told the committee members that she had conducted the compatibility analysis. “I just wanted to go on record,” she said, “that I do testify here today that this development is compatible with the surrounding developments, and it is consistent with your land development code and your comprehensive plan.”
Mills-Gutcher spoke about the way the Florida Legislature had defined compatibility, explaining that it is met when a use being brought in is capable of existing without disturbing or causing undue hardship on the existing uses.
“So,” Mills-Gutcher continued, “when we look at residential to residential, it is really difficult to find that that is not compatible.”
She also maintained that the density for the project, 3.8 units per acre, is well under that of some of the existing developments in the area, including Legion Park Landing immediately to the east at eight dwelling units per acres.
Mills-Gutcher had calculated the average density within the area at 4.2 units per acre, putting the proposed density for the project well within that average.
She highlighted a table contained in the analysis, as well, going over the characteristics of the proposed development other than density, including building orientation, height, building type and materials—elements that are required to be looked at with a compatibility analysis.
“And all of them,” Mills-Gutcher said, “are similar enough in nature to determine that this…project is compatible with what is existing today.”
She also assured the committee members that with their evaluations for the compatibility analysis the applicants had looked not only at platted subdivisions within a quarter-mile radius but also the properties immediately adjacent to the project site.
Susan Coffey, a resident of neighboring Hideaway Bay Drive, echoed the earlier concerns about potential for the project to worsen problems with stormwater drainage flowing onto other lots in the community. She predicted that the project site would be filled and become “like an island sitting up there above everything around it.”
Also addressing the committee, Crest Drive resident Buster George raised questions about whether stormwater management proposed for the development would be sufficient to handle the volume of water that would be coming onto the site. George said he was speaking as an engineer and called for additional study on this aspect of the development.
Speaking for the applicants, engineer David Campbell stated that the design for the project provides for water flowing toward the site from the approximately three acres on the south side, a historical flow, to be captured on the site and put into the project’s stormwater system. “So,” he said, “we’re going to be eliminating approximately three acres of that runoff…that’s currently going south and east. We’re going to attenuate it in two large ponds in the front.”
Campbell also said that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was requiring the applicants to store 50 percent more stormwater runoff than is required by the Walton County Land Development Code (LDC), “simply because the ultimate discharge is in the Choctawhatchee Bay, which is considered of diminished…water quality.”
Campbell said he believed that the project would be a benefit to the general area, stormwater-wise, while acknowledging that the property would sit higher than surrounding properties with the development. He explained that the flood elevation for the area is seven feet above sea level, resulting in some of the finished floors for the project being proposed at nine or 9.5 feet. “That’s an effort,” Campbell said, “to get that water to drain to the center of the site…”
With discussion concluded, Tim Brown recommended moving this minor development project forward to consideration of development order issuance once all remaining reviewer comments had been resolved.
A motion to that effect carried with all aye votes.
Walton Palm Estates
Also moving forward to development order consideration was another subdivision request taken up at the meeting, Walton Palm Estates.
This is a request on behalf of Walton Palm Florida, L.L.C., for approval to develop 13 single-family lots and infrastructure on 3.396 acres at the northeast corner of North Walton Lakeshore Drive and Walton Palm Road, north of U.S. 98 in Inlet Beach.
Introducing the project, Tim Brown noted that for the compatibility analysis the density for the project (5.43 units per acre) would be required to be evaluated based on that of the surrounding area, where up to eight units per acres are allowed. This information had not been incorporated in the analysis, he said.
Representing the applicants, engineer Robert Carroll agreed to revise the compatibility analysis to clarify that within a quarter mile of the site the requested density would be much less than that of the surrounding area, including new developments under construction.
Bradley called for the properties closest to the project site to receive the most attention on the compatibility analysis.
The project was advanced on the condition of the revisions agreed to being provided and any other outstanding reviewer comments being successfully addressed.
AutoZone Santa Rosa Beach
Another minor development project coming before the committee on Nov. 1 was AutoZone Santa Rosa Beach, a request on behalf of CPH, L.L.C., for approval to construct a 7,381-square-foot auto parts store and infrastructure on 1.26 acres at the northeast corner of U.S. 98 West and Bishop-Tolbert Road.
The property is in an Industrial future land use area and a Light Industrial zoning district.
Introducing the project, Tim Brown brought up some technical issues, including plans by the applicants to fill in an existing mosquito control ditch on the property and replace it with pipes for the water. “So that eliminates the 25-foot wetland buffer,” Brown explained, adding that South Walton Mosquito Control District (SWMCD) had signed off on those plans.
Brown said the main issue remaining was that the applicants would be putting more drainage into the 25-foot eastern landscape buffer required due to the Industrial use on the property bordering a mixed use there. “They’re putting more drainage in that buffer than what’s allowed under our code,” he said of the plans. Brown added that the planning director, however, would be able to grant permission for these plans.
An engineer representing the applicants was confident that any remaining reviewer comments could be successfully addressed.
The project will face additional review due to its location on the U.S. 98 Scenic Corridor in the form of a hearing before the Design Review Board (DRB).
The committee members voted to move the request forward to that board on the condition of those comments being resolved. As a minor development project, it will advance to development order consideration by the planning director once clearing the DRB.
Projects advancing to Planning Commission
Two projects coming before the TRC on Nov. 1 will be advancing to the next step, Walton County Planning Commission, based on votes by the committee.
The first of those was the St. Joe Company’s Walton County Detailed Sector Area Plan (DSAP), consisting of 1,400 residential units and 126,000 square feet of commercial and retail uses on 1,965 acres located northeast of U.S. 98, south/southwest of the Intracoastal Waterway in between two portions of St. Joe’s DSAP 1.
The other project advanced to planning commission was the McDonald’s Rezoning, a request to change 1.49 acres on the south side of U.S. 98, across from West Hewett Road in Miramar Beach from Village Mixed Use (VMU) to Coastal Center Mixed Use or a lesser zoning district. The change is being requested for the stated purpose of allowing for a drive-through, which is not allowed in VMU on parcels of less than three acres.
Plat requests moving forward
Two plat requests coming before the committee at the Nov. 1 meeting will advance to final consideration by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners(BCC), based on votes by the committee.
These include: The Watersound Origins Phase 5 – Naturewalk Phase 4 Plat, consisting of the platting of 76 single-family lots and infrastructure on 23.37 acres located 1.4 miles north of the U.S. 98/Watersound Parkway North intersection in southeastern Walton County; and the Kaiya Beach Resort Phase 2 Plat, consisting of the platting of three single-family lots, five multi-family lots, preservation/common area, and infrastructure on 2.47 acres at 25 Kaiya Avenue within the southeastern Walton County Kaiya development
Continued agenda items
Continued by advance request to the Nov. 15 TRC meeting were the following agenda items: Inlet Vue Subdivision and the 3 Sons BBQ Small Scale Amendment (SSA). Also continued to the Nov. 15 TRC meeting after some discussion was another agenda item, Arcadia at Hwy. 20.
By advance request, the Cypress Lake SSA with Rezoning, the Satinwood Subdivision, and the Villages of Santa Rosa Plat were continued to the Dec. 6 TRC meeting. Another agenda item, Thompson Woods Phase 2, was also continued to the Dec. 6 TRC meeting after some discussion.