THURSDAY NIGHT UPDATE: The proposed Lupin Beach project was discussed at great length and ultimately squeaked through the Planning Commission at a meeting Oct. 11.
The room was packed with people, a handful of whom were there to speak out on the project, but the planning commission would not hear comments that did not deal with the technical aspects of the project.
The technical aspects were storm water, utilities, and roadways.
Heather Whitmore, planner on the project, said that on those three fronts, the project is in compliance and requested an approval of the technical plan.
“We have reviewed the plan … and all of the technical aspects of the code adhere to the comprehensive plan,” said Whitmore. “We have ensured full compliance of the development order… issued in 2010.”
She mentioned a condition, that a final permit be issued per seaward-lying structure as EBSCO begins construction on each.
“We recommend you approve this and recommend approval as you forward it on to the Board of County Commissioners,” said Whitmore.
Scott Shirley, representative of Haines O’Neil, a homeowner on Walton Magnolia Lane, stood up to speak on behalf of his client. He mentioned dune destruction, which was brought up at an earlier meeting but not resolved.
Planning Commission Chair Tom Terrell put a stop to that talk.
“That is not applicable to us tonight,” Terrell said. “I think that would be best addressed to the BCC, not the planning commission. The conceptual plan was already done.”
Terrell did say he would hear comments about the technical aspects of the project.
But comments from Shirley about the initial approval of the project, as well as the jumping in of Gary Vorbeck, a lawyer from the EBSCO side, led to a five minute recess, during which County Attorney Toni Craig, and the two lawyers spoke.
Shirley was allowed to speak after the recess, addressing the density of the project. He said there would need to be a change in the subdivision’s density.
Shirley’s co-council Tom Tomasello said the county violated its own comprehensive plan by allowing for more than two homes per acre.
Terrell said he doesn’t know anything about the density.
Three Inlet Beach residents spoke: one wanted to know what would be the impact of the new dune on the surrounding properties in the event of a storm, one asked to hear the coastal engineer speak, and one asked that minutes from the Feb. 23, 2010, meeting be studied and rehashed.
Terrell closed the public comment portion of the meeting.
Lee Perry, Tom Terrell, and Sally Merrifield voted to pass the technical aspects of the projects. David Kramer and Tom Patton were opposed.
The project will again be discussed at the Nov. 13 BCC meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
Here is the original story on the development.
The town planner of Alys Beach, Jason Comer, is planning a new development for Inlet Beach, and it is causing a disturbance in the neighborhood.
Lupin is the tentative name for the neighborhood of 3,000- to 6,000-square foot single-family homes to be developed on a parcel the Comer family has owned and visited for nearly 50 years. Comer did not respond to calls for comment, but a statement on Alys Beach’s website addresses the development.
"Our family had the great fortune of owning this property as far back as 1968, when Inlet Beach barely had six or seven homes," Comer wrote in a 2008 prepared statement to Alys Beach homeowners, seeking their input on the proposed development. "We spent the summers here, often without another soul in sight. My father was CEO of Avondale Mills, which owned Camp Helen at the time, and it was used as a summer retreat for Avondale employees. My grandfather owned three homes on this property, one of which is still standing today. That home is called Lupin."
The new neighborhood would ultimately demolish and replace the home, which sits on a bluff overlooking the Gulf.
The plans for this major project have been in the works prior to 2008, when EBSCO Industries, Inc., applied for permits for dune restoration, completed between 2010 and 2011 with 600 truckloads of sand.
Conceptual plans for the development were unanimously approved by commissioners Larry Jones, Cecilia Jones, Scott Brannon, and Kenneth Pridgen Feb. 23, 2010. EBSCO and Comer then proceeded to seek permitting from the state, made necessary because the plans include development seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the DEP created the CCCL “to protect the coastal system from improperly sited and designed structures which can destabilize or destroy the beach and dune system.” This measure does not bar Gulf-front development, but “provides protection for Florida's beaches and dunes while assuring reasonable use of private property.”
Structures can be built past the CCCL line only if they are approved and permitted by Florida DEP prior to construction. Lupin has yet to be granted that approval.
However, Walton County ordinances state “the county shall issue no development order or permit for construction on a new parcel (that is, a parcel created after November 7, 1996) if such new parcel lies entirely seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line.”
Seaward of the CCCL is the Coastal Protection Zone, whichextends from the Gulf to the inland “toe” of the dune closest to the water. The toe is where the dune begins rising from the sand.
Development is permitted within the CPZ, though “development shall be limited to boardwalks, shoreline access structures, and erosion control measures that will enhance and protect the dune system.”
The development calls for 20 houses situated on 6.36 acres in one of the easternmost parts of Walton County off Walton Magnolia Lane, abutting Camp Helen State Park. The development’s conceptual plans include nine beachfront homes in the CCCL, which have become the objectionable aspects of the project.
“It’s a controversial project here,” said James Connelly, who owns a unit at close-by Shoreline 9 Townhomes. “Any time you build by the Gulf, it’s controversial.”
Though the commissioners approved the project conceptually in 2010, Connelly says they shouldn’t have, as it goes against the county’s land development code and comprehensive plans. With nine of the homes seaward of the CCCL and “at least four completely within the Coastal Protection Zone,” Connelly says it is not in compliance, though EBSCO’s Vice President of Commercial Construction Eddie Foster disagrees.
“It is in full compliance of the comprehensive plan and land development codes,” said Foster.
The county did include verbiage in its policy that specifically deals with property owned before Nov. 7, 1996. It states that if the CPZ “regulations render a property owner unable to build a single family dwelling unit on an existing lot or parcel … that lies wholly within the CPZ, then the owner shall be allowed to construct a single-family residential dwelling unit, provided that the owner complies with all permit requirements…”
The CCCL and CPZ were designated to protect the beach, and Connelly fears the development as it exists now is contrary to that aim. He worries that some of the to-be-built coastal homes will aggravate the erosion of the beach and the dune system. He referenced the surrounding homes after Hurricane Dennis, which were damaged structurally, with much erosion under the homes.
But even with the potential for beach damage, Connelly says he understands Comer’s stance.
“I’m not antidevelopment,” said Connelly to clarify. “If I had this property, I’d want to be developing it too.”
He said his problem lies more with the powers that be at the county level and is a matter of them following their own guidelines: “It’s because it’s Walton County, and what they are not doing.”
The project will come before the county’s planning commission for approval of aspects such as storm water Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
Connelly called this “an opportunity for (Planning and Development Services Division Director Wayne) Dyess to do the right thing” and vote down moving forward on the project at the Thursday meeting. The planning commission will vote to make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for their final approval of the project at the Nov. 13 meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.