By DOTTY NIST
Two minor development proposals, the Gaskin Dollar General and The Garden at Peach Creek commercial building, were taken up at the Jan. 24 Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) meeting at Freeport Commons. Both requests were continued after some discussion. Two other agenda items were also continued by advance request.
The Garden at Peach Creek
The Garden at Peach Creek is a request on behalf of CAT Management Holdings, L.L.C., to develop a 3,060-square-foot commercial building for a nursery business on 1.5 acres at the southeast corner of the Hamon Avenue/U.S. 98 intersection, east of Peach Creek.
The property is in a Mixed Use future land use area and a Village Mixed Use zoning district.
The request came forward with South Walton Fire District reviewer comments not having yet been provided. Introducing the project, Stephen Schoen of Walton County Planning and Development Services noted that staff would expect the applicants to address concerns relating to access and buffering in a resubmittal.
Buffer conditions, as indicated in the project staff report, include meeting Walton County Land Development Code (LDC) criteria for buffers with uncomplementary adjacent property by time of site plan approval, plus maintaining buffers “in an attractive and healthy state” in the future.
According to the project staff report, there is an existing driveway on Hamon Avenue by which the business property could be accessed. The driveway is used for the church located on adjacent property. However, the plans show a new access connection on U.S. 98 to be used in place of the existing driveway for the nursery business.
Speaking for the applicants engineer Ezzeldin Benghuzzi said the proposed new driveway off U.S. 98 had been at the insistence of the state Department of Transportation (DOT). He said he had been surprised at this direction from DOT.
Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director and TRC chairman, was surprised at this too, considering the large amount of development that had been approved on the other side of U.S. 98 and a traffic light being likely at the intersection in the future.
Benghuzzi also explained that, with DOT having required the driveway off U.S. 98, the applicants had proposed placing it all the way to the east, as far as possible from the intersection. However, he said DOT had told them that the driveway must be centered on the property.
Carpenter said placing the driveway as proposed was inconsistent with county policies and the recently-adopted Walton County Mobility Plan. He suggested meeting with DOT for more discussion on access for the development.
“I would like some more explanation from DOT why they think this is a better idea,” Carpenter said.
Benghuzzi agreed to set up a meeting with DOT for these discussions. He was confident of being able to address other reviewer comments in a resubmittal.
Paul Lackey, co-owner of the business, also addressed the committee. He noted that the entrance coming off U.S. 98 to the church is a private road, and he said he thought that this may have been what influenced DOT to call for the business to have an access off U.S. 98 rather than working with the church to provide for use of their private road for access to the business property.
Carpenter replied that it is not an uncommon circumstance in Walton County for traffic from a commercial parcel to use a private roadway to get onto a public roadway. In response to a question from Lackey, Carpenter said the county’s preference would be for access to the business property to not be off U.S. 98.
The committee members voted to continue the request to the Feb. 21 TRC meeting to allow time for the discussions with DOT and for a resubmittal addressing remaining reviewer comments.
Gaskin Dollar General
The Gaskin Dollar General is proposed by Dennis Phillips for 1.75 acres at the northeast corner of State Hwy. 83 and CR-181 East. Plans are for a 10,640-square-foot store.
Introducing the project, Rosanna Edwards of Walton County Planning and Development Services said there were outstanding reviewer comments for the project, adding, “We do not have an environmental assessment… at this time.”
“We do believe there are wetlands on site,” Edwards said.
Speaking for the applicant, engineer Jennifer Bell stated, “We finally did receive the environmental assessment report,” and pledged that the report would be submitted to the county.
Bell said it had been determined that there are about 4,300 square feet of wetlands on the site. She said that there would be plan revisions showing the wetlands, all of which are proposed to be filled.
Bell suggested that the committee continue the request to the Feb. 21 TRC meeting to allow time for the resubmittal.
The owner of adjacent property, Sherry Head, questioned the size of the Phillips property and said that previously Phillips’ company had 0.75 acre of her property under contract. She said the contract had been terminated due to wetlands and the right-of-way between the two properties not having been vacated by the county.
Carpenter said he was not aware of any application for abandonment of the right-of-way in that area.
Head brought up the issue of whether there would still be 1.75 acres on the site with the 0.75 acre of her property no longer included. She said the property appraiser shows the Phillips parcel to be only 1.06 acres.
Bell responded that at the time of pre-application for the project, plans were for two parcels to be included because it had not appeared that there was room to situate all of the development on the one parcel. “At that time, we were going to have to vacate a portion of the Cedar Avenue right-of-way,” she said.
Bell said that the applicant had been “kind of discouraged” about pursuing the right-of-way abandonment “because of the process.”
She said the applicant had then been able to locate all of the development on the one parcel on the corner on the plans, with the applicant’s boundary survey having shown the Phillips parcel to be 1.75 acres. Therefore the portion of the adjacent property was not needed, nor was the vacation of the right-of-way.
Edwards clarified that the property appraiser shows the property to be 1.07 acres, but that, according to the survey submitted by the applicants, it is 1.75 acres. She said she would go back and confirm the acreage.
Carpenter said he would expect the survey to provide the more accurate number for the acreage. He encouraged the applicants to be in contact with, and work with the neighboring property owners about the development proposal.
The committee members voted in favor of Bell’s suggestion to continue the request to the Feb. 21 TRC meeting.
Other continued agenda items
Continued by advance request to the Feb. 7 TRC meeting was one agenda item, Inlet Beach COW (cell tower on wheels). Another agenda item, the Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club Deck Expansion, was continued by advance request to the Feb. 21 TRC meeting.