To the Citizens of South Walton County,
Next Monday afternoon, April 20th a critical decision will be made by our County Commissioners concerning our community’s future. That decision will be whether or not to allow the construction of a 50,000 sq. foot Hampton Inn hotel on Scenic Highway 30A in Seagrove Beach. The construction of a Hampton Inn on a site that was originally intended for mixed use development now is before our Commissioners and it is anticipated that a final vote will be taken at the April 20th meeting.
Some say that this is just the price of growth for our community. Others say it should be the right of the property owners to be able to build anything they want as long as it complies with the Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code and other restrictions. Many other concerned citizens here in South Walton feel as passionately as we do that this is not in the best interests of our community, and does not meet the requirements of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. In fact, over 9500 people signed an online petition voicing that concern in January and February of this year. Hundreds of people have written letters, called our Commissioners, and shown up at County meetings to oppose this development. Why? We would infer from this outpouring of opposition that they would agree with us that this decision represents a tipping point for our community. If this project is allowed to go forward, it will set the standard for others like it to follow in its path, forever changing the character and uniqueness that is South Walton, and 30A in particular.
With the meeting less than a week away, we thought it might be helpful to revisit the main arguments against building this 90 room hotel in our community.
It does not meet the purpose or intent of a VMU Center. Simply stated, this project does not meet the definition of a mixed use development. In fact, the developer has admitted that this project will be serving just one use, that of a hotel. The intent of the VMU classification is to provide for multiple uses that create a sense of place and identity (think Seaside, Gulf Place, and Watercolor).
It does not meet the requirements for commercial use within a VMU. The plans submitted by the developer show a very small commercial space within the pool area for “commercial use” i.e. retail. The code states that the commercial use within a VMU is to be available for use by residents of the community. Does anyone believe that a 340 sq. ft. room within a restricted pool enclosure is intended for retail use by the local community?
It is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods. The LDC states that a VMU center must encourage and promote transitioning development from lower density to higher density to ensure compatibility with the surrounding neighborhoods. This project does not meet this definition and in fact does not fit in with the mostly residential neighborhoods around this proposed site.
Parking will be an issue. While the proposed plan does technically meet the County’s requirement for parking, 1.1 spaces per room does not adequately meet the real need for parking for a 90 room hotel, especially since many of the rooms will sleep six people. If there are 2 cars per room or more (which is very realistic) where are the additional cars going to park? Our friends at the Baptist Church next door, as well as adjacent businesses and property owners along 30A are very concerned with this overflow problem.
Preservation. Finally, historically Walton County has required this parcel of land to protect the endangered plant life on the property, meaning that a substantial portion of this parcel must be reserved for preservation. The County has provided us with documentation where prior developers were repeatedly told that a substantial amount of this property was reserved for preservation. None of those requirements have changed, and no one from the County has explained the change in policy. In addition, there is a stipulation in the code that, if approved by the County the developer may “buy out” half of the required preservation. This is not an entitlement. It is not automatic. The County Commissioners have the legal right to deny a buy out if they so choose.
We have not even addressed the impact this hotel will have on traffic on 30A. If anyone was driving (or trying to) over the past several weeks during Spring Break we don’t believe anyone with a straight face would say adding another 50 cars to the peak hour traffic on this overused stretch of road is a good idea.
We have tried to make these points during the previous County meetings on this issue. With the generous support of our community, we raised over $30,000 to pay for legal services to help fight this fight. It will all come down to a vote on Monday night with our County Commissioners.
We strongly encourage any and all who feel South Walton is a special place and want to keep it that way to attend this very important meeting. It starts at 4:00 p.m. at the Emerald Coast Middle School. Please come and show your opposition and in doing so protect our community.
Our future depends on it.
See you there.
President, South Walton Community Council
For the last year & a half cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus & crew have been working on telling the story of our “globally rare & critically imperiled” Coastal Dune Lakes, which premiered April 2nd on the Green in Watersound Origins Village Commons. Many residents attended to celebrate how lucky we are to have these gems in our community and to enjoy Elam speak about his experiences while creating this amazing documentary.
If you missed it, here’s a clip of the film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=63&v=ASegtEQgasQ
For more information, contact SWCC at email@example.com
SWCC Executive Director Position Available
The Board of Directors for South Walton Community Council have announced that they are now taking applications for the critical role of Executive Director for the organization. This role will serve as the staff leader for SWCC and will report to the board. We are seeking a strong, experienced leader who can take the organization to a new level of performance and impact at a most critical time for our community. Please click on the link below to see the detailed job description. To apply, email SWCC Search Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. SWCC is an equal opportunity employer.
The Incorporation of South Walton ~ Is Now The Time?
On February 26th the South Walton Community Council (SWCC) presented Director of Membership Lynn Tipton, Florida League of Cities to speak and answer questions about incorporating South Walton as a city. Two sessions were held at the Seaside Repertory Theater, located in Seaside Florida.
To view videos of these sessions, you may visit the Love My 30A website at http://wp.me/p5wsnB-rX or visit the Not On My 30A Facebook page where you will find the video and other relevant articles about incorporation.
For more information, contact SWCC at email@example.com.
the Charm and Character of 30A
At its January 14th meeting, The Planning Commission voted 3-2 in favor of recommending the Hampton Inn development to the Board of County Commissioners. The large crowd opposed the development from many different perspectives. The development now goes before the Board of County Commissioners on March 5 at a special meeting scheduled to hear only this item. The meeting will be at 4PM at Seascape. The change in location is to accommodate the anticipated large audience. We will provide you more details about the location once we receive them.
So, to all of you who attended the Planning Commission meeting, thank you, and we look forward to seeing you at the March 5th Board of County Commissioners meeting where the actual up or down vote occurs on the development.
Most importantly please donate what you can to help support and defend the unique beauty and character of South Walton.
President, South Walton Community Council
Protect our Coastal Dune Lakes
The current proposed revisions to the coastal dune lakes protections contains explicit language regarding the right to request variances from this section of the land development code, which also implies that some, if not all, of the coastal dune lakes protections included in the Comprehensive Plan will be removed from that plan. SWCC is opposed to this change and it sets a dangerous precedent. Our Walton County Comprehensive Plan was carefully developed and is one source of protection for many of the environmental features of South Walton County.
Also the current proposed Chapter 4 revision raises the limit for lot clearing within the Coastal Dune Lake Protection Zone to 50% from 25%, a full 100% increase. There is also additional clearing allowed for storm water management leaving the possibility for lot clearing on the coastal dune lakes to be 100% outside of the buffer. No science-based reasoning is provided for this increase in the clearing allowed on lots within the Coastal Dune Lakes Protection Zone.
We need to let our public officials know we oppose any relaxation of the protections to our rare coastal dune lakes. The Commissioners are considering these changes close to the time that PBS will be airing the film that Elam Stoltzfus is making about our beautiful lakes. Would it not be high irony that at the time our coastal dune lakes are receiving national attention we are taking steps to degrade those same lakes.
Please continue to write your commissioners and inform your friends.