The Walton Board of County Commissioners approved several new construction projects at its regular meeting Tuesday evening, with the largest being The Shoppes At Inlet.
This project will consist of 13,462 square feet of retail space on 1.46 acres with a future land use designated by the county of Neighborhood Infill, and an Inlet Beach Traditional Neighborhood Plan designation of Neighborhood Commercial.
The project is located at the northeast corner of North Walton Lakeshore Drive and U.S. Highway 98 east.
Rich Jaffe, president of the Historic Inlet Beach Neighborhood Association, told commissioners that his association does not have a problem with the development, except for the ingress/egress situation.
"Initially, there was a request for a traffic light but DOT said that was not possible," said Jaffe.
The only access to the Shoppes is from U.S. 98. Residents fear that large delivery trucks would use N. Lakeshore Drive, which is a small residential street not designed for this type traffic.
"Our main concern is dumping traffic onto this tiny street," said Jaffe. "We continue to be concerned about the impact it will have on a small residential street."
Since Lakeshore is a public street, Planning Department Director Mac Carpenter said the type of traffic could not be restricted without signage from the Department of Transportation.
However, developer John Freer, who will also be the owner of the restaurant to be built there, told commissioners that he will control all tenant spaces and leases and will stipulate that all deliveries be made from U.S. 98 and not Lakeshore. He also offered to put up a sign.
All signs must be approved by DOT, though, said Commission Chairman Bill Chapman.
"We control delivery time and access at Shades and it has worked well since 2003," said Freer. "I will control it."
District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson commended Jaffe and Freer for working together on this to find a solution to the concerns.
"I am very encouraged," said Anderson. "This could be good for Inlet. You've got to have shopping somewhere."
"We are thrilled to have an oyster bar at Inlet Beach," said Jaffe. "We have been working on this for months and we're really close (to settling concerns)."
Carpenter suggested that if Freer would commit to accepting deliveries only from U.S. 98, that might be the answer.
"That might be the most effective, and incorporate that into the development order," said Carpenter.
Anderson made the motion to approve the project if Freer would do that.
The motion passed with unanimous approval.