Stick with me past these next two sentences. It’s important if you live in Bluewater Bay – but it’s also a little boring-sounding.
‘Okaloosa County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the 19th change to the Development of Regional Impact – Bluewater Bay. The approval doesn’t mean construction will begin immediately on 51 housing units, but it does mean the end of the Lake Golf Course is nigh.’
Basically, the old Lake Golf Course will soon have more than 50 houses put on top of it, should the developer pass through the next step – receipt of a development order from the county. Some locals are annoyed with the changes for purely aesthetic purposes – others are worried about flooding issues.
For more background on the Development of Regional Impact rules, check out our article from earlier this year. It’ll also help familiarize you with the situation in Bluewater Bay more generally.
Today, the county approved a request from the developer of the Lake Course fairways 4,5,6,7, and 8, Randy Wise, to change most of the 30.86 acres of their DRI from G (Golf) to R (Residential). The change created an R-Low and an R-Medium area (which allows a certain density of residential homes to be built. R-Low allows 2.5 homes to be built on an acre and R-Medium allows 4 homes to be built on an acre) – as well as approximately 4.5 acres for recreation. Just what, if any, amenities would be placed on those recreation areas has not been decided yet – and would be approved in the development order phase of the approval process (that’s next).
Jerry Ziven, the representative for Randy Wise Homes on the project, added that the developer plans to add three park areas, one at each end of the development – and another in the middle. “The [homes] will be at a value consistent [with] or in excess of everything that is adjacent to them. We believe it’ll have a positive impact on values overall,” Ziven said.
At this point in writing stories – I should have guessed that a story about the Bluewater Bay DRI would be largely about stormwater and flooding issues. This story is no different. Zivan noted to the commission that the project was using 100-year flood planning strategies in its development. 25 years is standard for Bluewater Bay.
Although that was the case for the development itself, several members of the public pointed out that the 100-year flood mitigations put in place apply only to the new construction. They wouldn’t apply to the retention ponds already in place – which are rated to 25-year flooding. Leon Beck, a resident of Bluewater Bay in attendance in the meeting, said that he believed that the proposed plan would still end in the flooding of his and other neighborhoods. “We look forward to good development,” Beck told the commissioners in public comment, “development is coming – I don’t think anyone has a problem with that. It’s just doing it responsibly.”
But Mr. Beck was wrong – there was at least one person who was opposed to all development on the former Lake Golf Course. Dwight Herring told the commission that he opposed the plan because of the marketing that told him his investment, a home on the golf course, was an investment with a permanent vista. “I built my house in 1992,” Herring said, “I oppose [this project] first and foremost because Bluewater Bay was marketed as a golf and tennis resort. The fact that the course has been mismanaged is not a good justification for replacing it with homes.”
Commissioner Trey Goodwin, of Fort Walton Beach, ended significant discussion on the matter when he told the rest of the board, “The idea that someone is going to lose views or visual aesthetics to their property is not ideal, but unless those visual aspects are embedded in covenants or restrictions and are enforceable – I’m not really sure this board is in a position to do something today. I’m confident that the development will be a good product. That’s anecdotal – nothing I do today will ensure that.”
This isn’t the developer’s last date with the county. Not by a long shot. While the developer has the ability to build low and medium-density housing on the former fairways – the commission still has to approve a development order. This means the developer will have to bring back more specific and comprehensive plans about what they plan to do in with the parcels of land.
The commission can then approve or reject the plans.
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