Sandestin Development and its homeowners reached a settlement agreement in their dispute over more construction, but some in the community are still not happy.
The only hurdle remaining was to pass the agreement by the watchful eyes of the Walton Board of County Commissioners and the rest of the community. That hurdle was completed Tuesday afternoon when commissioners voted 3-2 to accept the SDI and SOA's negotiated settlement agreement for the resort's Notice Of Proposed Change to its Development of Regional Impact.
Local Attorney Dana Matthews represented Sandestin Development and Tallahassee lawyer Gary Hunter represented SOA.
"We worked through issues over three and a half months of sitting down with SOA and entered into a global settlement agreement," Matthews told commissioners.
And Hunter agreed.
"We are here today comfortable with where it ended up," he said. "We would appreciate your support of this revision."
However, some in the community are not happy with the settlement agreement.
Sandestin resident Karan Hines urged commissioners to vote against the settlement because of concerns about contaminated water at the parks on the property due to construction run off.
"Is Sandestin in compliance and will they stay in compliance? I don't know. I am concerned," she said.
Carolynn Zonia also expressed concerns about the local government's disconnect with what the community wants -- namely, to protect the well being of the area with less construction and more safety.
"It's the county's responsibility to protect natural habitat. I am against more construction at Sandestin. They cannot prevent water run off. If you are true to your words I don't see how you can pass this," Zonia told commissioners.
Driftwood resident Alan Osborne also objected to the notice.
"Dana Matthews didn't say we solved the issues," he said. "Nobody knows what was negotiated. An indemnity agreement protects you when you're wrong. I told you in 2005 about this run-off issue. The sludge that appears in the bay was not there in the '50s. It appeared when Driftwood took off. The crabs that used to be there have disappeared.
"You refuse to read Dr. Harper's findings into the record," he added. "You're paying to put those pipes into the bay, but you're cutting a deal with Sandestin. This is all about money and buying a position. We knew that property was fragile in '76. But you're going ahead with an incomplete traffic study. The people on Sandestin are tired of it and don't have any faith in you. That's why they're not here. But I'll come here as long as you poison the bay. You're being cowards."
There was also a question about whether the law was followed in giving proper notice about the hearing that was taking place, as no notices were mailed.
However, Matthews told commissioners that staff had determined that they are in compliance as they sent out 2,200 emails about the hearing.
District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper, however, quoted the Florida Statute that requires mailed notifications.
Matthews and Hunter disagreed with her interpretation.
"You took action in March that never became final because I challenged it," said Hunter. "Your actions from the spring never became final. This is the same ordinance but changes were made. SDI started this and they did not withdraw but are modifying. My opinion is that you're on solid ground with the way this was continued. We presented the settlement to an advisory board as presented to you today. There wasn't any concern with it about whether people are aware of this settlement. They are aware whether they got a piece of paper in their mailbox or not. It would cost SDI $40,000 for another procedural. I don't think there is a problem."
Commission Chair Cecilia Jones commended both sides for sitting down and coming to a settlement.
District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson made the motion to approve. The vote was approved 3 to 2.
"It would have cost money to do this right by sending out the mailing, but it's worth it to go the extra mile to do things right," District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander said. "It would have assured the public that things are being done right."
Comander and Nipper were the dissenting votes.