Proposed RV resort gets OK from Walton County Planning Commission
SANTA ROSA BEACH — In the face of community opposition, a request from an eastern-Florida-based developer to establish a gated recreational vehicle park for 66 RVs along with a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse and a pool on nearly 10 acres in southern Walton County, is going to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners with a recommendation for approval from the county Planning Commission.
That recommendation will move in tandem with a requested zoning change to accommodate the proposed RV park. Both issues surrounding the Moll Drive tract, located just south of U.S. Highway 98 between St. Rita's Catholic Church and Helen McCall Park — with a residential subdivision one one boundary, a coming mixed-use development and existing commercial developments nearby — will be in front of the County Commission at its July 22 meeting.
The Planning Commission gave its approval to the proposed South Walton RV Resort with just one dissenting vote from new Planning Commissioner Dan Cosson. The board at a previous meeting voted to recommend that county commissioners approve the needed zoning change.
Cosson, while praising the RV park proposal from Ponte Vedra Beach-based SRB Land LLC at the July 8 planning commission meeting, nonetheless nodded to community concerns that it was not compatible with the neighborhood.
Citizens are 'first and foremost'
"This is a stellar facility," Cosson, himself an RV owner, said prior to the vote. "It's family-oriented; it's not (going to bring in) a bad crowd." But, Cosson added that for him, "first and foremost are the citizens of Walton County."
"As much as I like your facility when it's all said and done, I'm going to stand behind the citizens of Walton County first," Cosson told the developer.
Among those who opposed the RV park was Barbara Morano, representing the board of the nonprofit South Walton Community Council.
"An RV park is transient, and it's not part of the community," Morano argued.
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Morano, who told planning commissioners that the SWCC has a mailing list of 500 people, suggested that a denial of the rezoning request set for a hearing at the July 22 County Commission meeting, at which area residents and others could turn out in force, would prompt the developer "to weigh his options more seriously."
"This could be a residential neighborhood as opposed to an RV park," Morano said, suggesting that the developer, whom she praised for other work in the county, "had to do this RV park because they had to increase their profitability."
'As good as anything I've seen'
As discussion continued, exchanges between Morano and Planning Commissioner Michael Harbin grew particularly contentious. Harbin repeatedly asserted that Morano, who lives several miles from the Moll Drive tract, was offering opinion and not fact, an accusation that Morano returned to Harbin.
As currently planned, individual spaces in the RV park would rent for more than $100 per day, with a three-day minimum stay and a one-month maximum stay to accommodate "snowbirds" who come to the area in the winter.
Running through a list of community concerns about the project, Pike Hall IV, who would own and operate the facility as an on-site manager, told the Planning Commission that water and sewer connections will be available at each RV parking site, meaning that there will be no need for visitors to pump waste into any sort of holding tank at the park.
Also according to Hall, the RV resort would have electrical hookups at each site, eliminating the need for visitors to operate generators or to leave their RV motor running to have electricity.
Hall also added, once an RV is parked at the resort for its stay, it would not be allowed to move. Visitors would instead use personal vehicles towed behind their RVs during travel, for local trips, or rent golf carts.
The RV park also exceeds county requirements in terms of vegetative shielding from adjacent properties, Hall said.
Hall also addressed Morano's contention that the acreage could become a residential development, suggesting — along with some planning commissioners — that the existing uses in the area, particularly night-lighted ballfields at Helen McCall Park and commercial uses in the area, would not lend themselves to full-time residential uses.
Hall said the "trend will be more commercial and retail development in the area."
Immediately before the Planning Commission's vote, Chairman Lee Perry, noting that he wouldn't want to live in a residential neighborhood on the proposed site, called the RV proposal "as good as anything I've seen presented" for development in the area.
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