Reinventing the wheel: Becnel, homeowners disagree on Ferris wheel

Published: Monday, August 5, 2013 at 10:51 AM.

"We feel strongly that Sandestin is not just an amusement park; it's a destination for a great all-around lifestyle," said William Godwin, president of the Gateway at Baytowne Wharf Condominium Association. “There is a certain degree of hustle and bustle in the Village but the transition from that to a carnival is another thing altogether.” 

  From minor to major

In its infancy, the proposal for the wheel was under review by the Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) as a minor development. On July 3, the TRC had postponed the proposal for a legal opinion on whether a variance, providing for construction heights at Sandestin over Walton County’s 50-foot limit, would hold for a non-building structure such as the Ferris wheel. According to the Defuniak Herald, at a Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting July 9, Commissioner Cindy Meadows presented concerns about the effect of the Ferris wheel on surrounding properties and public safety.

“This is an egregious impact on neighboring residential properties,” she told the crowd.

Meadows argued that the wheel proposal should come before the BCC in public session due to those impacts.

On July 10, the Design Review Board voted to have the Ferris wheel reviewed as a major development — much to the surprise of Becnel and Sandestin Real Estate's Executive Director Kitty Whitney.

"The Ferris wheel was brought up without being noticed on the agenda," Becnel said. "It turned into a major development even though it doesn't meet the criteria."

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