Walton County Tourist Development Council held a special meeting on April 13 to discuss the purchase of two properties on U.S. Highway 331S for a new TDC facility.

The current TDC facility has 6,900 square feet and was built over a pond at the intersection of U.S. Highways 98 and 331 on land that is being leased from the Department of Environmental Protection.

"Our chief concern is lack of parking spaces. We are pretty tight people wise but if we have a meeting we run out of parking spaces," said David Demarest, director of communications. "Building size is not as critical as parking. We can't expand the parking where we are because of the pond."

The current building was constructed in 1997. It has 33 parking spaces, including one RV parking spot and two handicapped parking spaces. There are 18 full-time employees working in the building and three TDC vehicles that use the spaces, leaving 12 spaces free for visitors and people attending meetings.

"We run out of parking in the current configuration," said Demarest. "And, although it's not allowed, sometimes people park their cars here overnight, or while waiting to meet someone at a convenient transfer point, so that takes up additional spaces."

Three parcels were being considered and appraised. But the third property's appraisal came in far below the owner's asking price and was no longer being considered, said Demarest.

The first parcel is 2.209 acres located at 24604 U.S. Highway 331S. 

The second is located at 4432 U.S. Highway 331S on 1.182 acres

These parcels are located just north of South Walton High School and just south of the government complex.

"Another benefit of getting these properties is people coming into South Walton can turn right into our facility. Visitors can't do that where we are located now," said Demarest.

The 24604 property is the old Sandcastles building, which could be used and added onto.

"You don't get the opportunity very often to buy properties adjacent to each other," said Demarest. "We hope to buy both. We run out of space fast."

Under the lease conditions on the current property, the TDC is required to return the land to its original state when it turns it back over to the DEP, but Demarest said it's more likely the DEP would choose to keep the building for their use. The other option is for another state agency to take over the building if the DEP chose to allow.

Because of the timing of the meeting, its results were not available in time to publish in this edition of The Walton Sun.

For more information contact Lisa Foster at 267-1216 or email lisa@visitsouthwalton.com.