COLUMN: Land use changes could harm land values

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 18:27 PM.

Last week, I wrote about mistakes people make — but I misspoke.  Instead of focusing on self-generated slip-ups, I should have pointed to roadblocks that hinder reaching your goals.  Like me last week, sometimes we inadvertently dig the hole ourselves. Other times we find our path blocked by forces beyond our control.

South Walton real estate prices have bounced back nicely, thank you, especially when compared nationwide, but there is a game afoot that could negatively affect property values.

On Jan. 28, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners had the first reading of proposed land use classification changes.  Perhaps I’m being too cautious, a trait that works better than foolhardy, but we should pay close attention. One of the reasons we bought property here and moved back in the ’90s was Walton County was not Destin or Panama City. 

Our then-teenaged daughter was aghast, “No one goes there, buy a place in Panama City.”  Old Dad reminds her of the youthful folly to an obnoxious degree. 

People notice South Walton’s unique qualities immediately. Walton County’s height ordinance meant no high rises, a definite plus for us.  South Walton has been discovered and when the four lane asphalt cools on 331, just wait.

Unless we screw it up, South Walton growth will continue soaring.  However sweeping changes to land use codes could negatively alter our quality of life and land values. Out of state developers don’t care, they don’t live here and once the check clears they are down the road. While I understand how Adam Smith’s invisible hand works, changing the rules and regulations will have unintended, unforeseen consequences. 

Some will argue current regulations stifle job creation. Drop that hoary canard; it’s like saying I love my mother, drunk or sober.  If someone in Mossy Head wants to work in the South Walton construction or hospitality industry just head south on 331 then show up on time. Sure we need industry north of the bay but changing South Walton land use categories won’t bring a single new job to the Mossy Head Industrial Park. Increased real estate values along with bulging sales tax revenues mean one thing: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.



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