South Walton TDC pursuing new visitor center site

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Kurt Lischka, Oct 3, 2011.

  1. James Bentwood

    James Bentwood Beach Fanatic

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    The future of the TDC’s proposed Discovery Center will be discussed May 8 at 4 p.m. at the Board of County Commissioners meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.

    This is an open meeting, with time set aside for the commissioners to listen to public input about the proposed project.

    At previous meetings, those who wish to preserve the plot of land in Point Washington State Forest spoke loudest. Their outcry has been answered by Dawn Moliterno, executive director of the TDC, who says a 1999 conservation settlement concerning the state forest does not bar the TDC from building within it.

    The settlement, agreed to by county and state officials, along with private citizens, was made when Walton County was given a 420-acre parcel of the conservation land on which to build what is now the Town Center. The county, in return for the land, signed an agreement stating they would support the use of all acreage within the conservation and recreation land boundaries to remain part of the Point Washington State Forest.

    The TDC looked into this when they started eyeing the parcel at the intersection of U.S. 98 and 331.

    “We immediately sought advice from our legal counsel,” said Moliterno. Of the three attorneys asked, “All three said that it did not have any impact to that particular parcel. That particular parcel was not in the settlement.”

    But some critics dispute that.

    “Even if, as the county now asserts, it is not legally binding, an assertion I dispute, it is nonetheless a moral commitment made by the commissioners recognizing the conservation goal of the Point Washington State Forest,” said Anita Page with the South Walton Community Council. “Commitments made by commissioners, regardless of whether they are legally binding, should be honored. Otherwise, trust in government is imperiled.”
     
  2. James Bentwood

    James Bentwood Beach Fanatic

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    Is it just me or does the forest issue seem to be a lot of hullabaloo about nothing? Red Herring? The TDC knew there would be opposition for an expensive new center on state land. So, have a big meeting, say your sorry, say you won't build on public land, crowd tastes victory, expensive building gets built where they wanted it in the first place.

    So predictable.
     
  3. James Bentwood

    James Bentwood Beach Fanatic

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    I also believe that if business wasn't so good then business owners would be lining up to support the TDC, but times are good so people feel like they don't need the TDC right now. Very shortsighted IMHO.

    ***********************************************************************************

    "Two years ago the mood was different. Last year it was optimistic, and now the future is definitely bright," she said. "What people come here for is the pristine beaches and it is our No. 1 asset. The taxes generate $7 million in tax revenue. Tourism is an economic development tool that brings businesses here."

    Moliterno said March bed taxes were up 33 percent, a record for TDC for March. Air travel to the area is also up 19 percent and continues to grow and energize the market, she said.
     
  4. Zebraspots

    Zebraspots Beach Fanatic

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    I think local businesses are more realistic than most of us about the benefits of TDC projects and spending - especially since most TDC contracts and money go to companies outside our area.
     
  5. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

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    Nice reasonable and sensible post from Chandra Hartman:

    From what I'm reading here, it sounds to me like the citizens of Walton County and the tourists who pay bed tax dollars could use a different approach to this contentious issue. Instead of fighting for the forest, we would be well served by finding an independent source who could do a cost benefit analysis of all the TDC operating expenses, generated bed tax dollars, and benefits back to the county. I think most people would agree that the TDC has played a beneficial role in the development of tourism in Walton County, though at what point does that investment not yield the desired return? Or what investments yield the greatest returns?


    Will a new facility strategically placed across the street with more square footage, and more employees, exponentially increase tourism dollars, quality of life for residents, and protection of our natural resources? Could that same money be spent smarter to achieve the same thing? Perhaps moving into an existing renovated structure and streamlining all operations with a strong focus on a web presence would be more beneficial than a new building.


    Anyone who has mad math skills and not connected to the TDC or BCC could do some back of the envelope figures to jump start the discussion. I think it would give a tremendous amount of insight to both sides to see those returns on investment, keeping in mind that the BP payout was (hopefully) a one time windfall.


    In addition, I think we all agree that increasing tourism is great for our local economy, but at some point in the future, we may want to rethink the balance between exponential tourism growth and economic, social and environmental benefits. I don't think we are there yet, but maybe in this discussion of return on investment, the citizens of Walton County may wish to reevaluate the role of the TDC.
     
  6. ecopal

    ecopal Beach Fanatic

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    We all need to show up at the County Court House Annex today at 4pm to stop this waste of 5 million dollars of tax money to build a new large TDC "Discovery center" .

    This maybe the last chance you can stop the county from wasting 5 million dollars of tax money that could be better spent expanding and enhancing beach accesses.

    I have heard that the special interests that are to profit from this reckless waste of tax money are going to flood the place with their cronies.

    Just showing up will send the government a message!
     
  7. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    Let me guess. A Christian prayer, right? Because having a Christian prayer at a government meeting is just so appropriate and necessary to getting the business done...but back to the matter at hand.

    This project needs to be tabled for now, and meaningful research and discovery need to be completed on the necessity of new offices for the TDC people, the usefulness of one central "discovery center" (blech- I hate it when people try to make a piece of crap idea sound good), and the economic impact of different options- the one put forth by the TDC AND the others put forth by others.
     
  8. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Oh come on, jim45. Your post makes too much sense and is too cogent to be acceptable to many, including some in the TDC leadership. I feel it is time to re-evaluate the scope and function of the TDC and possibly change its primary functions as they are seen now.
     
  9. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

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    The post is from Chandra, but I agree with you.
     
  10. jodiFL

    jodiFL Beach Fanatic

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    12 acres south of 98 are voted out of consideration. See recent tweets from waltonsunmolly on the Walton Sun site.

    "Cecilia Jones made motion to deny TDC working terms for discovery center. Applause from the crowd. Passed."

    "BCC just denied the TDC's proposal for the multimillion dollar discovery center on state forest lands in response to recent public outcry."
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  11. lms47

    lms47 Beach Lover

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    The Walton Sun is reporting through tweets:
    "Reporter Molly Mosher, who tweets under the name WaltonSunMolly, is at tonight's County Commission meeting. She tweets the following breaking news item "Met with applause: In light of a letter from Forestry Service, commissioners motioned, seconded Point Washington 12 acres is no longer a consideration."
    at the motion for the Discovery Center was denied. "

    FINALLY, the BCC is standing up to the TDC!
     
  12. Annie66

    Annie66 Beach Lover

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    I think it's time to do away with the TDC. People come here for the beach and besides that vacationers don't know or care what county they are in. The TDC is a vehicle that serves only to waste money.
     
  13. Zebraspots

    Zebraspots Beach Fanatic

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    The TDC does a good job maintaining beach accesses and doing beach trash pickup. Everything else can go away.
     
  14. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

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    Some would say that's exactly why you do need a TDC.
     
  15. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

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    The Walton Commissioners continued the discussion on the proposed new TDC Visitor’s Center. The Florida Forest Service submitted a letter of response. The Tourist Development Council Board made a recommendation to build a new Visitor’s Center that would also be a Discovery Center on Forest land south of the 331 and 98 intersection. This proposal has met with a lot of resistance from the public with many wanting to not take away from the Forest.


    The letter from the Florida Forestry Service says their goal is to protect and enhance the Point Washington State Forest. They say they will take any proposals from the county and consider it and forward it to the Florida Division of State Lands. The letter states the FFS wants the project to have the support of the local community.


    Commissioner Cecilia Jones made a motion to deny the TDC Council recommendation to proceed with swapping land with the Forest. She said the TDC Council did their job, did what was asked of them. The motion passed.

    Jones then made a motion to seek architectural design services so the process would start. Commissioners agreed they need to decide what kind of building they need and what land they need. Commissioner Larry Jones said they should allow the TDC Council to ponder what was discussed and either find a desirable piece of property and design a building to fit or decide what building is needed and find land to work with it.

    TDC Director Dawn Moliterno said there was a recommendation made based on information from an outside firm that identified the building and staff needs. The motion passed, but commissioners reconsidered it to clarify involving the public in the needs assessment process. Commissioner Brannon voted no, because he feels involving the TDC Council would allow the public to be more involved.


    Commissioners also agreed to bring in temporary buildings to make sure the current TDC building has some safety issues taken care of.
     
  16. Annie66

    Annie66 Beach Lover

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    We don't need a TDC to waste money. The county commission can find more creative ways to do that.
     
  17. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

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    Andy, as usual, you're right on the money. Re-evaluation of the TDC top to bottom is in order and now.
     
  18. buster

    buster Beach Fanatic

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    Anybody know what are the safety issues?
     
  19. BeachSiO2

    BeachSiO2 Beach Fanatic

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  20. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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