EAR - changes in Walton County planning
By Gabriel Tynes
In its latest state-mandated Evaluation and Appraisal Report, the Walton County Planning Department admits a number of bureaucratic shortcomings that are delaying or preventing smart growth across the county.
The seven-year, 8,000-page report, which is required by the Florida Department of Community Affairs, is based on problems that are expected to arise with a projected 85,022 additional housing units in the county by 2025. Many of the new units are a result of the latest Base Realignment and Closure Commission suggestions which are predicted to bring thousands of new military personnel to Eglin Air Force Base.
The EAR implies that most of the new arrivals will settle in the middle or northern portions of the county, and local governments are largely unprepared to receive them. However, the report states that with specific operational changes and procedural amendments, the county should be able to accommodate growth in the years to come.
Walton County is primarily troubled by its amount of developable land, which is limited because of private acreage, public conservation areas and Eglin AFB, which in itself accounts for 22 percent of the county’s total square mileage.
The EAR also suggests the county is hindered by unusual land use categories and vague language in the comprehensive plan. It also recommends changes in the 10-year-old Future Land Use Map that will reevaluate plans for transportation, storm water management, solid waste, water, sewer, schools and recreation.
The planning commission, in cooperation with the Board of County Commissioners, will advertise dates for public hearings regarding the findings in the EAR. A hard copy is already available for review at the South Walton Courthouse Annex, and searchable, digital copies are available for a five dollar fee.
According to the DCA, the EAR evaluates how successful a community has been in addressing major community land use planning issues through implementation of its comprehensive plan. The report suggests how the plan should be revised to better address community objectives, changing conditions and trends affecting the community, and changes in state requirements.
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