Walton County Workshop: Village Mixed Use on January 29, 2015

While people often refer to the use assigned to a piece of property as zoning, Walton County does not have zoning.  The county uses land use categories.  Those land use categories, found in Walton County’s Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code, describe where the land uses can be located, what is permitted in those land use categories, and the prescribed intensity / density for each category.  Among the many land use categories in Walton County is Village Mixed Use (VMU).

As the name suggests, Village Mixed Use is a category that anticipates large “village” sized parcels of land with a mixture of uses developed to create a community or village effect within the area in which it is located.  Some of you may be familiar with Gulf Place at Santa Rosa Beach, a very good example of VMU development where the commercial and residential uses are intermingled to create a lovely ‘community’ feel to the development.

Walton County currently allows VMU on parcels adjacent to Highway 331 and Highway 98.  There are already existing parcels on C.R. 30A that have this designation, although the Walton County Comprehensive Plan does not allow new VMU designations on 30A.

It is important, however, to study how Walton County has developed over the last 20 years.  Not all VMU designated parcels are large parcels.  Not all parcels designated VMU have room for a mixture of uses.  So, what is a developer / property owner to do with a parcel that has a land use designation requiring a mixture of uses?

For parcels that are less than three (3) acres, pre-dating the adoption of the land development code, the requirement for a mixture of uses is waived.  In the event a property owns a parcel that has been less than three (3) acres since November of 1996, they can develop a singular use on their property with approval from the planning department.  However, if the parcel is over three (3) acres or has been split (in any fashion) after November of 1996, the parcel is still required to include a mixture of uses in their development proposal.  If the property owner does not want a mixture of uses or it is not feasible, a small scale amendment should be considered as an appropriate solution for the property. This would allow a more sensible and compatible land use designation for the site.

Development should be smart and fit into the needs of the community.  Good development is profitable for the property owner and a pleasure to the surrounding residences and businesses.  While that may sound idealistic, it is the intent of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code to encourage just that kind of smart development.

Walton County is going to have a workshop on the Village Mixed Use land use category language on January 29, 2015.  The planning department staff have copies of the proposed language for public review.  The current language does not differentiate between the types of development allowed on Highways 98 and 331 and those allowed on 30A.   Now is the time for the community to get involved in the language that is being developed for these VMU parcels.  Now is the time to understand what the neighboring property owners with VMU land use designation could potentially develop.  The community that desires change should get involved in the writing of the language that brings about desired change.

Have ideas about what needs to be changed? Reply below and let us know your thoughts about the proposed VMU language.

Re-Design of Chateau 30A (proposed Hampton Inn)

There is clear concern the community along County Road 30A has with respect to the re-design of Chateau 30A. Below are some of the issues the community, the Planning Commission, the Board of County Commissioners, and the Walton County planning department staff should consider.

Preservation

This lot was part of a development plan approved in 2004. The environmental assessments for that project showed that almost the entire parcel was sand pine scrub, a community that requires 50% preservation. Because of errors by county staff, the development was approved without the appropriate preservation.

This development, as part of that larger development, should be required to meet the county’s preservation requirements. That would mean preserving more than two acres of this threatened vegetative community. The county should not allow developers to split lots in order to avoid mixed use requirements or preservation requirements. To do so undermines the county’s code.

Even as submitted, the plan does not meet the preservation requirements of the code. The Land Development Code does not allow preservation buy-out on County Road 30A. This provision is intended to promote the scenic nature of 30A by maintaining the native vegetation on 30A. At a minimum, this project should preserve 1.25 acres of native vegetation.

Even if the code does allow preservation buy-out, it is at the discretion of the county commission. The commissioners should refuse to allow the developer to buy out the preservation for this lot, both to preserve the vegetation along the scenic corridor and to redeem the errors made on the prior project that was allowed to develop without any preservation.

In addition, the Walton County Land Development Code encourages preservation in the Coastal Dune Lake drainage basins. This property is less than a quarter of a mile from Eastern Lake and drains toward the lake. This is a further reason to require the full amount of preservation on the site.

Mixed Use Development/Compatibility

Per the Walton County Comprehensive Plan, a Village Mixed Use Center “is intended to provide opportunities for small scale mixed use development designed to serve a series of neighborhoods.” “This category is designed to allow a mixture of uses . . . which will assist in creating sustainable villages with commercial uses within walking or bicycling distance for residents.” “The commercial uses shall be in scale and character with the village concept.” “The VMU areas are mixed use centers which encourage and promote transitioning development from lower intensity along the perimeters to higher intensity core areas to ensure compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods.”

Village Mixed Use requires a mix of uses. A hotel with 660 square feet of retail is not a mix of uses. The other parcel on the property holds storage units and thus is also a commercial development. A group of commercial developments is not a mixed use community.

This Village Mixed Use area is surrounded by single family homes. A hotel is not compatible with the surrounding development; it is much higher intensity. There are no transitioning uses – the uses go directly from single family residential to high intensity commercial. Per the Comprehensive Plan, “The scale and uses at the edge shall be compatible with abutting neighborhood uses.” That is clearly not the case here.

The only other commercial development in the area is small, low-impact business that serves the neighborhood. This development is not low impact, does not serve the neighborhood, and will not integrate into the overall scheme of development in the area. It does not fit in with the concept of a Village Mixed Use development.

Traffic

30A does not have the capacity to absorb this much additional traffic. Regardless of any proportionate fair share payment, there are no improvements that can be made on 30A to mitigate the impacts of this development.

Parking Study Presentation at Sandestin

The Tourist Development Council held a public meeting to share their parking study information. This study’s scope of concern was public parking areas, with a focus on Scenic Gulf Drive and County Road 30A. In attendance were county commissioners and county administration as well as members of the public. There were suggestions in the report of areas and ways that the County could increase public parking. If you are interested in seeing the report look to the county’s website at www.co.walton.fl.us.  There were many areas along County Road 30A where the study recognized the need for public parking improvements to be made by Walton County.  What are your thoughts?  Did you go or review the presentation?  How is the parking in your neighborhood and do you have ideas on how the County can help alleviate those issues (if any)?

Walton County TRC Meeting?

Walton County held the Technical Review Committee (TRC) Meeting Wednesday, February 5, 2014, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The agenda may be reviewed here.

When reviewing the agenda it occurred to me that one less involved with the regulatory agencies might not be very informed on the workings of the Technical Review Committee.  For instance, what can you expect at the TRC meetings? Who are the TRC members?  What is the purpose of the meetings? Well, these meetings are an opportunity for the applicant to meet with the members of the committee to receive and discuss comments on their permit application. The committee is comprised of the planning staff, building official, agents from the regulatory agencies such as utilities, fire and life safety, 911-Addressing, Public Works, as well as others.  The TRC discusses things like setbacks, preservation requirements, traffic concurrency, project impact on utilities, and parking. The committee meets with the purpose of identifying and clarifying the concerns for each application.

The meeting is typically moderated by the Director of Planning and Development.  Staff prepare agendas with details of each project to be heard and keep minutes and records of each meeting.  Reports are generated by the staff and provided to the applicant or their agent.  Copies of reports can be obtained by contacting the planning staff prior to the meeting.

These meetings are both useful and informative and it doesn’t stop there. The meetings may be the only opportunity for the public to comment on projects of concern.  Projects that do not meet the criteria for a major development application will not go before the Planning Commission or the Board of County Commissioners.  Those that do not meet the criteria of a major development application are deemed minor or less-than-minor and are only advertised for public review at the Technical Review Committee meetings. The public may go to these meetings and will have the opportunity to voice questions or concerns about the projects individually during each review.  For many projects, this is the only public comment period.

If you are interested in checking what will be reviewed at each meeting, you can read the DeFuniak Herald Breeze legal section for notices or you can go to the Walton County website  to review the agendas online.

Town Hall Meeting with Commissioner Meadows

Walton County District 5 County Commissioner Cindy Meadows has announced that she will hold a Town Meeting on Thursday, February 20, 2014 from 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM. The purpose of the meeting is to invite the public to discuss and answer questions about County issues with an emphasis on spring break. If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact the District 5 Commission office at (850) 231-2978. Please be advised that two or more Walton County Commissioners may attend this meeting. Please be governed accordingly.

Online payment now available.

Sachs & La Seur, P.A. is pleased to announce that we are now able to accept online payments through our website. Payments are made via Lawpay®, the premier payment processor for the legal industry, making online payment simple and secure.

Of course we are still happy to take payment information over the telephone, and accept checks mailed to our office at 1394 County Highway 283S, Bldg 4, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida  32459.

 

Walton County closing update.

Walton County government offices and schools will remain closed Thursday , January 30, 2014 as a result of severe weather and dangerous road conditions. Click here for more information.

Our hearings scheduled for this week have been canceled, and we will reschedule them once the judicial offices reopen.

Walton County Board of County Commissioners meeting – 01/28/2014

The Walton County Commission met the morning of January 28, 2014 at the County Courthouse in Defuniak Springs. Items of interest in the land use and planning areas included the following:

  • The Commissioners discussed a proposal to adopt a procedure for the review of clearing permits. Staff will prepare draft language for the Commissioners to consider for addition to the Land Development Code.
  • The Commissioners also approved a resolution to increase planning department fees. A copy of the resolution can be found at www.co.walton.fl.us (search fees).
  • The Commissioners also approved staff amending the future land use language to reintroduce agriculture uses in rural land use categories.
  • After agenda items were addressed, Commissioner Meadows suggested staff consider combining several noise ordinances to make one ordinance for Walton County overall.
  • The Planning Department presented LDC chapter 2 ordinance for first hearing.

Colleen Sachs Recognized as Florida Legal Elite

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.  – Colleen Sachs of Sachs & La Seur, P.A. in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida was recognized in the 2013 edition of Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite™. The list of 1,228 honorees, published in the July issue of Florida Trend magazine, includes attorneys in private practice as well as top government and non-profit attorneys.

Actively practicing Florida attorneys were asked to name the attorneys that they hold in highest regard as professionals – lawyers with whom they have personally worked and would recommend to others. Florida Bar President Eugene K. Pettis notes, “In an ever crowded profession, it’s even more important to the public and the profession to identify exceptional attorneys; Florida Legal Elite is a great resource for this task.”

“Florida Trend’s 250,000 readers are executives who rely on the legal community for a multitude of corporate assignments,” says Publisher Andrew Corty. “When we first published Florida Legal Elite in 2004, our goal was to provide a valuable resource for our readers. Over the past 10 years, I’ve heard many accolades about the program. Florida Legal Elite is a guide to selecting a trusted legal partner to handle delicate business concerns. Our website, FloridaTrend.com, offers another pathway for the dissemination of this key information.”

The entire Legal Elite report can be viewed at www.FloridaTrend.com/LegalElite.