Alaqua Animal Refuge founder Laurie Hood went before the Walton County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday night to ask for the county's final approval for her new location and planned facility.

Commissioners gave overwhelming approval for the project with several speaking up to commend Hood for all the good she has done for the community.

Hood plans to move her current refuge from its 10 acres located on her private property down the road to approximately 97 acres that were donated to Alaqua.

Hood plans to develop a 106,211 square-foot animal refuge facility on the property.

The property is located on the east side of Joe Dugger Road, just north of its intersection with State Road 20 in Freeport, approximately five miles east of U.S. Highway 331 on the north side of SR 20.

The acreage was designated by the county as Future Land Use Estate Residential and Rural Village on the county's Future Land Use Map.

Due to the project being declared a major development by Walton County Planning Department, the project must include roadways, parking, sewage, and retention ponds, all infrastructure that Hood had not planned on initially.

"So we will be kicking off a major capitol campaign very shortly," she told The Sun.

Hood estimates the cost of infrastructure alone will amount to $1.4 million.

The entire project is estimated to cost $15 million.

"My plan to make it self sustaining all depends on all the property being completed to sustain visitors," she said. "And we have to raise all of that money over and above the $80,000 we have to raise now for monthly operating expenses. So we really have to get to work."

For more information about Alaqua Animal Refuge or to donate, visit www.alaqua.org.