Zoning Board discusses change to RV permitting and Proposed Freeport Development [PREMIUM]

By TRISH DAY

On March 24, the Walton County Zoning Board of Adjustment held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at the Freeport Boardroom. Two board members were absent.

Several agenda items, including the Horsepower Pavilion appeal, were continued to the April 28 meeting. County Land Use Attorney Steve Hall said the county asked for the continuance in the Horsepower Pavilion case because they have a major witness who was unable to testify at this meeting. The Bristol Development case was continued until May 26.

The Berry conditional use application for temporary or seasonal use of an RV was heard. The property is on 0.76 acres in District 1, located approximately 0.25 miles south of the County Highway 3280 and Jim Roberts Road intersection. Chairman Joe Johnson asked the applicant what her intentions were. She said “for use on vacation.” Johnson said, “It is not the intent of this board to issue conditional use permits to use RV’s as vacation homes.” He explained to the applicant that she can use the RV as a temporary dwelling if she plans to build a house within one year. The applicant indicated plans to do so. The application was approved with requirements as outlined in the Land Use Code.

Walton County Planning Director Mac Carpenter advised the board of a pending change in the Land Development Code. He said, “As of noon yesterday, the county has suspended taking applications on the conditional use of RV’s on less than five acres within platted subdivisions.”

Chairman Johnson was concerned about the change, citing the lack of affordable housing in the county. “You know, these people call $1,500 a month ‘affordable housing,” he said. “People need a place to live for $400 – $500 per month.” Carpenter countered, “the concern is creating an enclave of housing types that will never generate property taxes, which means that neighborhood will no longer be able to support itself in public services.”

Shelton Stone of Stone Architecture appeared before the board on behalf of Linda Patterson. They are seeking a multifamily conditional use on 28+ acres in District 1 located on the south side of SR 20, approximately 3.1 miles from US 331. Chairman Johnson asked Stone if he would like to continue to a later date due to the absence of two board members. Stone elected to postpone until April when all board members were present.

Barbara Morano of South Walton Community Council (SWCC) spoke to say she approved of the continuance, and pointed out that there was a large presence of Hammock Bay residents in attendance who are concerned about this project, which is basically a rezoning to multi-family or mixed use. The project proposes building 17 units per acre across 28 acres (approximately 478 units total). She noted that it didn’t make sense for conditional use to be granted until the project receives a land use change. 

Johnson said, “I personally believe they need a zoning change before this board grants conditional use – that is my position.” His statement was met with applause from the residents in attendance.

Johnson further suggested to Stone that he plan a community meeting to hear from the residents before proceeding. Stone indicated he had scheduled a community meeting in April at the South Walton library. Residents opposed having a meeting south of the Bay. Stone agreed to find a venue in Freeport to meet with community members and indicated proper notice would be given.

Barbara Morano explained the various steps of development to the audience. She said the project will go through technical review, planning and land use before it goes to the Board of County Commissioners. She urged residents to follow it through each phase and attend the meetings to voice their concerns at every stage. Morano said, “Process and procedure ensures public participation and promotes smart development.”