Sandestin Investments and the Sandestin Owners Association have been at odds with each other over the future development of the report for years. A new settlement agreement between the two parties could be the first step in future improvements coming to the popular destination.

After years of being at odds over various development issues, the Sandestin Owners Association's president announced last week that the SOA has entered into a settlement agreement with Sandestin Investments, resolving their ongoing dispute.

That dispute, which had resulted in the SOA filing lawsuits, was prompted by SDI owner Tom Becnel's Notice of Proposed Change application he filed with the county and that was approved by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners earlier this year.

The NOPC amended certain provisions of the development order for the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact.

The SOA challenged the NOPC by filing two lawsuits, one before Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet sitting as the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission and one in Walton County Circuit Court. Both cases will be dismissed under the terms of the settlement.

"I am thrilled," said Becnel's assistant, Kitty Whitney. "I think they did the right thing."

Despite its entitlement to construct 1,873 additional residential units, SDI has agreed to reduce the number of units it will develop within the current boundaries of the DRI to no more than 1,324 units.

Of those 1,324 units, 624 will be north of U.S. Highway 98, 200 units will be south of U.S. 98 on no more than three parcels and 500 units will be allocated to Grand Boulevard.

In addition, SDI reserves 240 units for development within the vested areas of Linkside Conference Center, Linkside Center, the exhibition hall, and the Links Driving Range.

The settlement agreement does not impact residential units previously allocated for the development of Burnt Pine Villas and Osprey Point.

Of the 624 units north of U.S. 98 within the current boundaries of the DRI, no more than 466 units will be developed on any of the Marina parcels, the Village of Baytowne Wharf, Monarch, or Jolee Island.

No more than 24 units will be developed on the Raven Clubhouse, and no more than 134 units will be developed on the Administration area and four Baytowne golf holes adjacent to U.S. 98. SDI committed to delay construction on any portion of these for five years.

The tennis court parcel will remain open space and will not be developed for residential or commercial purposes.

SDI agreed to not pursue residential development on the Finz restaurant site.

In addition, SDI committed to forego the addition of any category of amusements without the consent of the SOA.

Both also agreed to terms for future beach parking, village parking, beach restroom facilities, construction of a roundabout at Heron Walk Drive and Baytowne Avenue, garbage disposal fees, and parcel assessments.

A statement issued by the SOA to its homeowners said SDI and SOA looked forward to closing this chapter and investing their respective resources toward working cooperatively in an effort to improve Sandestin for all.

SDI also issued a press release stating that SOA and SDI will be working together for the future.

It was noted that SDI agreed to donate the land and a financial contribution toward the development of a traffic circle and additional feeder road to optimize flow and decrease traffic accumulation at the Heron Walk/Baytowne intersection.

SDI also offered an option for SOA to buy SDI land near the administration building where an office building could be constructed. SDI also offered to lease the former administration building to the SOA for $1,000 a year for three years.

With concerns about increased beach traffic, SDI granted SOA use of restroom facilities currently located near the putting dunes course near the west beach crossover.

SDI will extend beach concessions and services to the western area of the beach, providing more convenience to beachgoers.

These settlement terms will need approval by the Walton County Commission.