By DOTTY NIST
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS – Offering property for purchase by the Walton County has caught on in a big way, with additional properties recently being offered—and the county now looking at a total of more than 40 properties for sale.
This came to light with a report by Jay Tusa, Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) executive director, to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) at its Oct. 25 regular meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.
Soon after coming on board with the TDC in April, Tusa had been tasked by the BCC with seeking available properties for purchase as beach access and beachgoer parking areas, the intent being for these to be purchased with TDC bed tax funds. Those efforts have resulted in several successful property purchases over the past few months, including a beachfront parcel at the Eastern Lake outfall area, beachfront property in Dune Allen that is envisioned as a regional beach access, and a seven-plus-acre nonbeachfront property on the east side of CR-283 South known as the “Grayton Grand” property. The latter is on the way to being set up for surface parking, with other future public uses possible.
At the Sept. 26 BCC meeting, Tusa had presented preliminary information on 19 available parcels, with locations ranging from Miramar Beach to the Eastern Lake area. On Oct. 25, he reported still more property recently having being offered to the county, bringing the total number of parcels to more than 40. Most parcels are beachfront.
Among the newly-offered properties is the 14-unit Dune I beachfront condominium complex, which is adjacent to the aforementioned Dune Allen property planned to be used for a regional beach access. The price tag for the condominium is $15.5 million.
Tusa also discussed a parking opportunity, three parcels available across CR-30A from Ed Walline Park in the same block as another property that the county had previously tried unsuccessfully to obtain for the same purpose.
He revealed, as well, that the Highland House Bed & Breakfast, located just east of Gulf Place, is also recently available.
Other new offerings include a bayfront property and two parcels in the Seacrest area, one on the beach and one “catty corner” across CR-30A that could be used for beachgoer parking.
Tusa noted that public beach access in Seacrest is currently limited to three neighborhood beach accesses.
“The Seacrest area is woefully underserved….” Walton County District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows commented, “that’s very attractive.”
District 3 Commissioner Bill Imfeld recalled that approximately $15 million had been spent on the recent Dune Allen and Grayton Grand purchases. ($800,000 was spent on the Eastern Lake outfall purchase). Imfeld was interested in knowing the amount remaining in the TDC budget that could be used for property purchases.
Tusa responded that Walton County Finance had indicated that approximately $8 million remained currently available.
By BCC direction, the newly-available properties were added to the others being examined by staff in “due diligence” review of the properties to ascertain land use classifications, the properties’ feasibility for purposes envisioned, location with regard to other public beach accesses, and other pertinent factors, with beachfront parcels being prioritized over nonbeachfront ones.
In order to save on costs, it was directed that legal hold off on obtaining title searches until a decision is made to seek appraisals on prioritized properties.
Information on the due diligence investigations is scheduled to be presented to the BCC at its Nov. 22 regular meeting. Editor’s Note: The BCC voted to postpone the [Nov. 22] information/report to 3 p.m. on Dec. 13, prior to the BCC meeting on that date at the South Walton Annex. They decided this at their Nov. 7 meeting.