Several Okaloosa County’s Tourism Development Department employees will head across the northern border (not Alabama) to extoll the virtues of not being cold during the winter to Canadians.
TDD members will spend roughly $10,600 to mix and mingle with potential vacationers and tour guide operators in Calgary, Montréal and Toronto in the hopes that they will head to Northwest Florida for a week or two in the relative warmth of the Emerald Coast.
In case you were worried that members of the TDD would be having too much fun on the taxpayers’ dime while they are up there – the average high temperatures for Calgary (43º), Toronto (32º) and Montréal (42º) are about 30-40º cooler than Niceville at the same time.
The representatives will market our areas swimming, diving, and paddling opportunities to our northern neighbors who, on average, stay longer and spend more money than American tourists due to the longer travel time, according to the Tourism Development Department.
A 3-1 vote by the Valparaiso City Commission at their last meeting means six more privately built medium-density housing units will be built on Valparaiso Avenue in the city’s heart.
The homes, which will get tightly packed onto 1.05 acres of land across from the Okaloosa Gas building, will likely fetch a good selling price in this market – although the developer’s engineer Matt Zinke did not mention a going price for a home.
The homes’ driveways will let out into Adams Avenue, a two-way alleyway on the backside of the property so that homeowners will not have to duck and weave through traffic (or back it up) in order to get in and out of their houses.
Mayor Smith and commissioners Wasdin and Crosby vote in favor of the planned unit, known as a Planned Unit Development (PUD). Commissioner Tom Browning voted against the project, citing a desire to see commercially-zoned land be used to bring retail and jobs to the city. Commissioner Kay Hamilton was not present for the meeting.
The city will split the cost of paving Adams Avenue with the builder, costing taxpayers about $12,500. City Administrator Carl Scott told the commission he supported the plan to split the costs, as the city had planned to pave the road eventually anyway – and it made sense to have the builder put up some of the money to make that happen.
This is a big win for the Citizens of Valparaiso, those who are already there in particular, because it will mean more good housing and more tax revenues in the city’s coffers, says local realtor Tracy Jennette. “We just have very low inventory in Valparaiso; they had stifled growth for a really long time,” Jennette said, referring to the anti-growth policies of past city administrations. “That’s why we see development there. And we have a huge need for medium-density housing.” The need for affordable housing is dire in the Mid Bay area.
Additionally, Jennette says, the City of Valparaiso’s strategic plan essentially bets that they can attract more people into the city – and that businesses will follow, lifting the community to a higher standard of living overall. “It makes sense to put some newer housing, especially right in the middle of town,” Jennette says the addition of smaller developments like these could bring the area west of John Sims Parkway a breath of fresh air.