I was impressed and distressed to read the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort presentation in the Northwest Florida Daily News this morning. First, there is no reference for their numbers. I can’t imagine the number of permanent jobs they are promising to provide and sustain throughout future years — could we get guaranteed perpetual contracts in writing? A major factor in the property tax increase of 11.4 percent from 2014 to 2015 is that property values increased. Property taxes of 2015 are already paid, so new development is not a factor in this calculation.
The TDC taxes paid in excess of $1.5 million are those already paid — this is operational profit. The construction and sale will not be ongoing profit. Setting aside the reality of the estimated economic benefit, this type of logic would lead us to pave over every square inch of the beaches of South Walton with no restraints whatsoever in order to maximize the development and rental capabilities of our county.
This developer has invested in personal projects, such as a fitness center located in the Burnt Pine Country Club, so that members (like him) don’t have to drive over to the Health Club, and corporate projects, such as the impressive (brand new) entry building to centralize offices, but SRI has not invested in much-needed resort maintenance, such as bay sea walls to protect the golf courses.
The reality omitted is the damage caused by overbuilding. Crowding decreases the natural beauty, diminishes the attractiveness of an area and reduces property values. Many parts of the country are actually trying to beautify and revive their area by planting more landscaping and increasing existing greenscape areas in order to attract and retain tourism. Local residents have little beach access as it is. Sandestin residents and guests already pack the beach during peak periods.
SRI will not state the number of guests that will be added so it is not possible to imagine the number of bodies that will be added to the current beach compaction. Furthermore, the developer refuses to provide traffic or parking plans until after approval, which is an unbelievable demand given the density currently existing on the resort.
However, the real safety issue with traffic is hurricane evacuation. There is already difficulty in planning for evacuation not only of Sandestin occupants, but also of Driftwood Estates residents.
However, if the beaches of South Walton become a crowded, compacted area where no one can actually go to the beach or drive down the road, much less escape a hurricane, the property values will go down rather than up, and the beauty that was the Emerald Coast will be lost forever.
Did you know that you can search TripAdvisor for “Cheap and Tacky” resorts?
- ROBERT D. STAINBACK, Ph.D., and JUDITH A LA MARCHE, Ph.D.