“It is insane what is happening in this county,” Angie Carter, a real estate agent who lives on Twin Creeks Circle, told the Santa Rosa County Zoning Board at its meeting Thursday. “We have diminishing quality of life, we have devalued properties because of the things that are being put right next to our houses…When is enough, enough?”
Carter spoke against plans to build townhomes on Luther Fowler Road in Pace, but her comments drew applause from residents waiting to oppose proposed commercial development near Chumuckla Crossroads and an RV park near Juniper Creek in Munson.
“When do we stop and slow down and think about these things and deal with the consequences of them?” she continued. “That’s what adults do; they think things through to the end result and figure out the best way to (develop property), not the best way to put money in the county.”
The board denied all three developers’ requests, just three of 15 cases heard during a meeting that lasted more than six hours.
Luther Fowler Road
Edward Dunn had asked the board to approve a conditional-use request to allow multi-family dwellings on about 14 acres at 4373 Luther Fowler Road in Pace. The property, at the corner of Luther Fowler and Berryhill roads. is zoned for highway commercial development.
Beckie Cato, a former Santa Rosa County planning director, represented Dunn. She said the property was ideal for townhome development.
“Townhome development provides a good transition between single-family homes and commercial development, particularly on this corner parcel,” she said, noting that the preliminary site plan purposely tried to maximize the buffer between the town homes and single-family houses.
Residents’ largest concern was adding traffic to Berryhill Road, but Cato said any development on the property would add traffic and some commercial uses that would not require a conditional-use permit could create far more traffic than townhomes would.
If approved, Dunn could build about 10 units per acre, or about 140 units, depending on the final site plan.
“I just think this is a whole lot for that one particular site,” board member Ed Carson said.
The board voted 7-1 to deny Dunn’s request; Tracy Bragg voted against the motion. The board will forward Dunn’s request to the Santa Rosa County Commission for final action at its June 23 special rezoning meeting.
About 10 miles north of Dunn’s property, Harrell Downey wants to rezone 23 acres in the 9100 block of Chumuckla Highway for commercial development. The property is to the east and southeast of Chumuckla Highway, between Chumuckla Highway and Byrom Campbell Road.
The current zoning is AG-RR (rural residential agricultural), but the Future Land-Use Map designates the property for commercial development. The county purposely designated lots bordering Chumuckla Highway for “commercial” future land-use, Darlene Stanhope of the county’s Planning Services Department told residents.
“We saw the Chumuckla Crossroads area as an area that would be, in the future, a good area for some commercial development that would serve that community,” she explained. “So that has been that way since 1991 (when the county approved its first Future Land-Use Map). We left the zoning the same, but we wanted the property owners to have the ability, if they wanted, to rezone to commercial.”
Harrell said growth since 1991 created a need for the commercial development the county envisioned.
“Staff worked over 20 years ago to create this corridor for future commercial development and identified that as, not only a need, but also something that would come in the future,” Downey told the board. “We would say, first, housing has come into this area, there’s no question about that; schools have come into this area, and there’s more schools coming.”
Downey also pointed out that his request would not create spot zoning, and that the county already had zoned a church and campground south of his property as commercial.
“We’ve heard conversation tonight that the county needs to plan further into the future, look more into the future,” Downey said. “Well, the county did this 20 years ago and now we’re into the future.”
Twelve residents spoke against Downey’s request. Chief among their concerns was the prospect of losing the rural character of the area. Several speakers said they were content to drive into Milton or other areas to shop for goods and services and questioned what benefit any commercial use of the property could be to their community. Some suggested adding a commercial development would create greater safety concerns because of increased traffic and insufficient infrastructure, and one resident said residents already have trouble getting enough water from the existing system.
In his rebuttal, Downey emphasized that his request conforms to the county’s expectations and told residents that growth is inevitable.
“If you’re south of County Road 182, there will more than likely be some type of development from that line back to Publix (at Five Points Shopping Center) at some time in the future,” he said. “That may not be this week or next year, but people are coming.”
Gage Holland made a motion to deny Downey’s request.
“This is a hard one for me…there’s a lot of people out there; one day there’ll be a need for it,” Holland said. “Right now, it’s hard for me to say it’s a dire need…I think there will be a time and a place for it, but right now I want to take it to a vote to deny.”
The motion passed 7-1, with Kirk Darby voting against denying Downey’s request. The board’s vote is a recommendation to the county commission, which will hear Downey’s request and make a final decision at its special rezoning meeting June 23.
The board voted 8-0 to deny Charles and Melissa Baxley’s request for a conditional-use request to put an RV park on a 31.5-acre lot in the 1000 block of Hutto Parker Road in Munson, just east of Big Juniper Creek. The property, zoned rural residential agricultural, is currently used for tree farming.
More than 10 residents spoke against Baxley’s request, citing a lengthy list of objections, including inadequate electricity service, potential stormwater pollution, increased traffic, and damage caused by driving heavy vehicles on roads not designed to carry their weight.
The Baxleys will not be able to attend the June special rezoning meeting, staff said, so the county commission will hear their request at its July 28 rezoning meeting.