SoWal Incorporation

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by steel1man, May 31, 2015.

  1. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Post such as the one above are one of the reasons there is friction between the North part of the county and the South. It is too bad that some people in the South have their noses up in the air and have no concept of what we really should be doing in regard to advancement of WALTON COUNTY. Please note I did not say South Walton.
     
  2. Leader of the Banned

    Leader of the Banned Beach Fanatic

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    I think Huckleberry would be more at home in NoWal.
     
  3. Lake View Too

    Lake View Too SoWal Insider

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    Should we change the name of this website to WAL?
     
  4. Bdarg

    Bdarg Beach Fanatic

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    In reading this thread I realize that people are confused about what incorporation is about. I saw someone mention that they were happy with the garbage and sherif services and therefore saw no reason to incorporate. Incorporation of a city into a city does not remove the city from the county. The services provided by the county will remain. The level of governance generated by an incorporated city can be as minimal as a providing a collective seat of influence with the county government, or it can be one that provides more, or higher level, services. Those are things yet to be determined.

    Currently the county government is trying to govern with a one size fits all approach to the whole county. Like most one size approaches, it does not really fit all. In this case, as the south county population continues to grow, it fits most, but will soon move to the category of fitting some.
    I my opinion, an incorporated area south of the bay is needed to fill the gaps and ease the tight areas of the "one size fits all" approach has generated. Developers are plagued by a constant flux of which rules will be applied and which rules will not. Property owners are constantly plagued by the possibilities that the land use criteria of neighboring lands will be amended in such a way that their property values will plummet. We are coming back from the property crashes of 2005 and 2008, but under the current structure a "gap" or a "tight spot" created by the one size fits most approach can send your or my property value back to the bottom of 2008--it makes property ownership in South Walton a spin of a barrel in real estate Russian roulette. By incorporating an area of the county for which the one size approach does not work, the area is able to tailor its own plan and have a say in its own destiny.
     
  5. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Couple of thoughts. We look at the trend to the west of us, we hear at budget time where the Sheriff comes with his hand out to the various cities asking for more money to provide police protection to cities and do so by contract. They basically already pay for that protection but I would guess that he is offering a higher amount of officer available in the city. Your comments pretty much focuses on zoning and planning and although I understand what your concerns are, I would be curious if there was a way to address that need with a some sort of MSBU or an HOA for those areas that would vote to have something as this. Is there any information as to the areas those that are involved in this are considering to include in this incorporation?
     
  6. Mike Jones

    Mike Jones Beach Fanatic

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    Just having a bit of fun with stereotypes.

    The truth is Walton has always been full of good ole boys. It's South Alabama after all. South Walton was, and is, where many of them do business.

    SoWal used to be full of vacationing good ole boys and their families from Alabama. Now SoWal is full of suburbanites from Alabama and Georgia (and other places). Not an improvement but certainly a big change.

    SoWal is evolving just like every place that becomes too popular. It's getting ruined and government growth is a part of the evolution.

    The only saving graces are the beach, lakes, parks, and forests. They can keep this place a good place to live. But we must protect them. Look at all the signs on the beach. Seems to me that locals and beach lovers should be up in arms and focused on keeping our beach public.

    If the beaches are off limits then there is no reason for people to live here or visit here. You'd be forced to stay in Seaside or WaterColor or Rosemary Beach.
     
  7. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Mike Jones is certainly right about the beaches. I have contacted the Commissioners many times regarding our scenic cooridor signage ordinance and why can it not be applied to the beaches. The "ho hum" response I've received is deafening! When I bought here, there were no signs on the beach and putting up a fence would have got someone cited. The beaches are sacrosanct. They should be treated with respect.
     
  8. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

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    Too bad we missed the boat...


    http://offbeatoregon.com/1206a-how-tom-mccall-saved-public-beaches.html


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Beach_Bill
     
  9. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    bdarg, You are correct that the new city will remain in the county. However, the relationship changes in that the city must contract with the county to provide services and additional costs will possibly be incurred. In fact, a new city must provide either its own police and fire services or contract with a provider before the city organization becomes official. Destin, for example, pays millions to the Okaloosa County Sheriff to provide law enforcement services. There have been efforts in the past for the Okaloosa Sheriff to take over the Ft. Walton Police Department. The reasons were that the Sheriff could provide the service cheaper, but there would have been a contract and payment for services. Bob Well's post is also correct that the Sheriff asks for more money from the cities in Okaloosa on a fairly annual basis. Due to the costs associated with starting/restarting a department, the Sheriff's Office generally gets what they ask for because they have the cities over the proverbial barrel. Since raising taxes generally is not an option, this means other services and amenities suffer.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2015
  10. Bdarg

    Bdarg Beach Fanatic

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    Mr. Glidewell, there is no requirement that a city provide police service over and above the county sheriff and the state police. The Florida League of Cities covered that question in their informational presentation in February. That goes for the fire service as well. You can see the video of the Florida League of Cities presentation at www.abettersouthwalton.com.

    It would be up to the new city and its inhabitants to decide what services that they want the city to provide. As mentioned in the presentation there are some cities in Florida that are very minimal, in some cases just providing zoning. It all depends on what inhabitants want. The exploration process is just starting so it is still too early to determine details such as which additional services are desired.
     
  11. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    I stand corrected. It was my understanding that new cities had to make provision to provide these services but apparently I misunderstood. Thanks for trying to keep me on the straight and narrow.

    But please call me Danny, I feel old enough these days as it is. :roll:
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2015
  12. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Well, I still believe from everything I've observed here and elsewhere, there will be an increase in costs for government to every citizen in South Walton. We can do what is necessary regarding zoning and development planning if a strong effort is made in that direction. That is where your efforts should be directed instead of toward incorporation, IMO.
     
  13. Bdarg

    Bdarg Beach Fanatic

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    Andy,

    I would normally agree with you, however the portion of the county south of the bay pays roughly 86% of the taxes in the county and only gets about a quarter of that back in the form of services (those numbers vary from year to year, however, that is the range historically +/- 5 or so). There are cities within the state of Florida that have had a much lower ratio of taxation to spending than ours and they actually saw their taxes go down after incorporation. Incorporation essentially gave them a collective seat at the table to push for spending control. Currently all we have working for us is an array of relatively small groups and/or very dedicated individuals that have to work pretty much full time, year around, just to try to keep themselves informed and speak out when allowed. To try to get the county to do the right thing on individual issues is an altogether different adventure and much more challenging. With the level of taxation and redistribution that we have now, I find it hard to believe that the situation will take care of itself. Incorporation is the only real alternative that is available to the citizens to protect their investments and their rights. With the gerrymandered districts and the poor south of the bay voter turnout in the primary elections it is highly unlikely that the area south of the bay is going to have more than one commissioner that understands the issues and frustrations of those who live south of the bay.

    In our current situation the formation of a city south of the bay is not so much adding an extra layer of government as it is filling a void in governance. There is effectively no current layer of government providing for the interests of those who live south of the bay. In fact, currently a void exists where there should be protections to maintain our property values and to maintain the safety of our community. As an example, we have an excellent and dedicated fire department, however, I shudder to think what would happen if they have to respond east or west of the 395/30A intersection on a rainy tourist season day when the traffic is piled up half a mile or more in all three directions. As skilled, dedicated and devoted as they are, the logjam caused by the lack of comprehensive planning cannot be good for the fire department's response times. To allow virtually unregulated and full force growth along an already clogged corridor is not good for the current property owners, nor is it good for the developers and other businesses in the area.

    Currently there is no zoning in Walton County. Instead there is a Comprehensive Plan and a Land Development Code. Both of these "controls" are supposed to provide a community with a sense of long term security and planned growth. However, the reality is that both are abused either by flat out ignoring them or the County granting waivers on a regular basis--which is really just a formal ignoring of the beneficial community convention of the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code. These two documents were intended to provide the area with a stability and durability.

    Various groups and individuals have been fighting for the proper enforcement of the existing laws and rules for decades. Their efforts have been met with a historic BCC thumbing of their nose. That is, their exhaustive efforts have resulted maybe in the occasional winning of a battle, but the county has not taken what planning guidelines it has seriously. As a result we now have the accumulated result of decades of uncontrolled growth along a very over loaded 30A corridor, and there is no plan to correct or improve the situation. In fact, if I remember correctly, the state categorizes 30A as constrained, meaning that it has no planned solution and that there is no identifiable solution to the overcapacity problem.

    I wish that there were some simple alternative approach that would solve the whole south county situation, but that would require a major paradigm shift within the county system of governance. Attempting to achieve that paradigm shift, in my opinion, would be significantly more challenging than the task of incorporating a relatively small portion of the county.

    It would be nice if the county government would do the right thing. If would be nice if the districts were not gerrymandered. It would be nice if the commissioner that represents me, knew that my part of his district exists, let alone has problems. It would be nice if the commissioners visited the economic engine of the county during its peak season to see how their arbitrary rulings impact those who live, work and play here. It would be nice if our only chance at fair representation were not to have to go through the time, effort and expense of incorporation. The efforts that you suggest, are efforts that have been going on for years. A lot of people have given enormous amounts of time, energy and money to try to get modern zoning implemented. To get existing comprehensive plan rules enforced. To get the Land Development Code followed. Those straws have all been pulled.
     
  14. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

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    Bdarg for City Manager.
     
  15. NotDeadYet

    NotDeadYet Beach Fanatic

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    Bdarg - A few points, if you don't mind. The SWFD is fully funded by the taxes they collect in SoWal, which stay in the SWFD. I would suggest you get up with their board and suggest, for example, that they consider adding a fire station east of Eastern Lake. There is no need for incorporation in order for SWFD to upgrade to keep up with the growth. In fact, they have done a great job so far doing exactly that. Incorporation will not give SoWal any power over the SWFD. Show up at one of their board meetings and discuss your concerns. Familiarize yourself with their budget and their plans for expansion.
    Incorporation also won't change the allocation of county taxes throughout the county. I can see you think it will, but I have not seen a legal argument yet that indicates that is a fact and not just a wish.
    We don't have zoning because we have the LDC and the Comp Plan. There is a very long history associated with this which could be a book and is certainly far too complicated to post about here. It was a flawed attempt to create something different and was meant to be better than a cookie cutter zoning plan. There are many reasons why it has failed, but one reason is that state oversight from the DCA failed, all the more since Rick Scott gutted the DCA.
    I see a problem with hoping that a new city will 'protect the citizens' investments and their rights." I really think you fail to understand that developers and investors will fight tooth and nail to protect what they see as their rights, to develop under the current system. Some of the citizens you are hoping to protect see potential return on their investments coming from future development. I think the planning process for zoning that you envision taking place shortly after incorporation will take much longer than you think, and in the meantime the pool of undeveloped land will just get smaller.
    As for 30A, if you want incorporation to allow changes to 30A the incorporated entity would have to take over the county roads. Then you need a road dept and the funds to run it. Or were you thinking the county would provide the funds? Can you guarantee that?
    There is not going to be a parallel county road built across the state forest. Even assuming permission could be obtained, the cost would be enormous. The forest has too many wetlands. Likewise north south connectors, with the possible exception of a road following the power line easement at Eastern Lake. Take a good hard long look at the aerials of SoWal some time, and a close look at roadbuilding costs in that environment.
    Personally I think your fundraising and lobbying efforts would be better spent to hire a traffic engineer and rally the troops to lobby for a practical plan.
    I'm in the Andy camp. I still think there is more that can be done now, but lamenting the past is useless. Some planning that isn't just pie in the sky would be helpful.
     
  16. Bdarg

    Bdarg Beach Fanatic

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    NotDeadYet,

    I am not exactly sure what your point is concerning the SWFD. I am very happy with the SWFD, in fact I praised them several times in my posting. I am well aware that those of us south of the bay pay for the SWFD. I am also aware that those of us south of the bay pay most of the North County Fire District too. I was merely providing an example of a life safety situation that would be impacted by the failure of the county to provide proper planning for infrastructure and the dangers that failure can present. That is the incredible gridlock on 30A. I have have no reason to examine their budget, or lobby for additional fire stations. If you do, then I would urge your to follow the plan that you provided. It sounds like a viable approach and good advice. I would do that very thing, that is, if I had a problem with them, but I don't.

    I agree totally with you that the construction of a road on the eastern edge of Seagrove is not likely to happen. Your reasoning about problems with land acquisition, wetlands, and then overwhelming expense of such a venture are spot on, IMO.

    I never suggested that a city would take over county roads. There would be no need for city roads department, IMO. Nor is there a need to hire an expensive engineering consultant to provide a solution to increase the capacity of 30A through Seagrove. The apparent finding of the state when labeling it as constrained road, would indicate that no such remedy exists. That is, unless you propose purchasing houses along 30A in order to expand the road right-of-way. Or if you are proposing to stack the lanes on a bridge/elevated road system. No one would be happy about either of those, and the cost of either of those would make the overwhelming expense of the road through the forest on the eastern edge of Seagrove look like a small stack of pennies.

    You are correct. The use of a Comp Plan and a LDC as county planning tools have a long history. That long history is part of the problem, i.e. It is an antiquated tool. There are much better tools that have developed for planning for infrastructure and development while Walton county was bastardizing and undermining what effectiveness the Comp Plan and LDC had. There is a reason why most all communities use modern planning tools.

    There have been dedicated groups and individuals that have spent decades raising money and attending meetings trying to encourage wisdom in the county's regulation of the buildout of south Walton. They did this because they had a long range vision that the county was blind or indifferent to. They did this as an attempt to avoid the very problems that are stringing us now. The wise developers want a code with fairness and consistency. A code that allows them to reliably predict the costs of development and thus a more predictable profit and risk. They want to know that their customers will find value in the stability and predictability of their community.

    No one wants to build their dream home just to find that the neighbor got a variance to build a hog farm or a concrete plant next door.

    Maybe we should try the same thing that has been tried for the last two or more decades in a constant game of whack-a-mole. Or maybe it is time that we try something different. Something that allows us to have a say in our own destiny. Something that might give us a say in how our tax dollars are spent. Something that might shine a light on and restrict the taxation and redistribution that goes on.
     
  17. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Let me say this as simply and succinctly as I can. I have never seen an individual or group make a concerted effort to establish viable zoning and development criteria with Walton County since I have lived here. If incorporation is to take place, let it be in the gripeing East end from Rosemary Beach to Grayton Beach. Leave us out of it!
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2015
  18. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    bdarg, to be fair, no one is going to be allowed to build any pig farms or concrete plants on 30-A. Primarily because no one would propose building such on land that expensive. The market dictates certain things. But I would be against such if it was proposed. The beach is the golden goose, why would I want to harm it? My only stake is the taxes collected, so I want higher property values and better infrastructure. We have plenty of space in the north for concrete plants and pig growing.
    I do want public accesses and available parking as well. While I do not go to the beach anymore, my children do and I anticipate my grandchild will in a few years.
     
  19. NotDeadYet

    NotDeadYet Beach Fanatic

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    Bdar, I am not sure you understood my post. I'll try taking just a sentence or two from each of your paragraphs and try again.


    I am also aware that those of us south of the bay pay most of the North County Fire District too. “


    Yes, that is the case. However, if we incorporate we will still be paying county taxes and the county will still probably use some of those taxes to fund north county fire services. I don't have a problem with that. We are after all part of the county and the fact is the north does not generate enough taxes by itself to fund the services they need. I would not want to be the one to tell the north, sorry, but you can't have fire protection unless you do what south walton did and create a special district and fund it with a special tax. Let the county do that, and in fact I believe they are moving in that direction.


    Or maybe it is time that we try something different. Something that allows us to have a say in our own destiny. Something that might give us a say in how our tax dollars are spent. Something that might shine a light on and restrict the taxation and redistribution that goes on.“


    There is a philosophical and political issue here and I think it is at the heart of the incorporation idea, and it relates to your complaint about north county fire services. How much of the county taxes collected in south walton should be spent in south walton, and how much should go to fund services in the north which would, without south walton tax dollars, be underfunded? I am still waiting for an incorporation proponent to spell out for me in concrete legal terms how incorporation would change the current allocation?


    I personally have no issue with my south walton tax dollars being spent for WCSO, the County Clerk, the Tax Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections, Health Dept., etc. And although they are not county entities, I have no issues with the infrastructures provided by Regional Utilities and Chelco. They have kept up. I'm leaving the schools out of this, that is a whole other issue. So really, it seems to me it comes down mostly to the Planning Dept and Code Enforcement and traffic matters and issues with the TDC.


    No one wants to build their dream home just to find that the neighbor got a variance to build a hog farm or a concrete plant next door. “


    I don't see another concrete plant in south walton, nor a hog farm. The land has simply become too valuable. North Walton ought to maybe think a bit about that though.


    I think you have an overly optimistic faith in a new city's ability to institute modern planning and zoning. I was here when the Trust process took place and the Comp Plan was adopted. The whole idea was extremely idealistic, and the flawed result was the result of, among other things, political dealings and vested interests involving themselves in the process with other agendas. It became even more flawed as attempts to 'fix it' were contaminated by the same old politics. I was also a part of the first neighborhood plan, the Inlet Beach plan, in which residents used a tool that still exists in the current plan to create a neighborhood overlay with different standards. It was a good first attempt but it has its flaws too, and was subject to the same problems of competing agendas for a future vision. I am not saying it cannot be done, but I certainly do not think it will be cheap or easy or quick. It will be messy and contentious, all the more so because there is much less left to develop and land values are so high. You cannot just brush off the vested interests and assume everyone will be on the same page and have the same vision.


    In the very first post in this thread, Lake View Too said:


    I was talking with a guy who moved here from Park City, Utah. What he said they did and what we should do is, to paraphrase, implement"planning overlays". I don't pretend to understand the concept completely, or how to implement them, either. They are basically a set of zoning ordinances specifically tailored to different needs in different areas.

    Also, both Grayton Beach and Point Washington, (I think) have implemented "neighborhood plans". Again, I don't even play a planning department engineer on TV, but these seem like better remedies than trying to incorporate a quarter of a county. “



    Traffic:


    Nor is there a need to hire an expensive engineering consultant to provide a solution to increase the capacity of 30A through Seagrove.The apparent finding of the state when labeling it as constrained road, would indicate that no such remedy exists”


    I don't believe there are no remedies. I have never proposed buying right of ways or building bridges or any of those very expensive things. In other posts here and on fb I have pointed out that one of the main traffic problems has been created by the 30a and 395 intersection and that two solutions were on the table years ago but have gone nowhere. I have also complained repeatedly that the county has allowed private property owners adjacent to 30a to obstruct the ROW with all sorts of immovable objects. Just the other day I saw two new date palms planted in what I am pretty sure is ROW. If you are worried about fire safety a good first start would be for the county to take back all of the 30a ROW and remove all objects that currently can impede an emergency vehicle. Please explain to me how a city would acquire the jurisdiction to make these or other possible solutions a reality? I suggested a traffic engineer and a plan to take to the county because I believe that is what we need to do. I'm not willing to throw up my hands and say “no such remedy exists.”


    Of course the density has greatly contributed to traffic, and that again goes back to planning and zoning. If you expect planning and zoningto be a help here, it would have to lower density on the remaining undeveloped parcels, and as I have said, I think that will be messy and lengthy.


    As far as Code Enforcement and the TDC, someone needs to tell me how a city could fix those things. Spell out for me how a city would acquire jurisdiction and what it could legally do to make changes in those entities.


     
  20. Bdarg

    Bdarg Beach Fanatic

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    Danny,
    Hog farm and concrete plant are metaphors for whatever you would not want as a neighbor. Those are two things are extreme examples of that which most all people would agree not want next door to them, that is the stench of a hog farm, or the noise and heavy traffic of a concrete plant. Feel free to insert whatever you would not want to be built next to your home. The area being discussed is the area south of the bay, north of the gulf and county line to county line, so not necessarily just 30A.
     

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