May 20 workshop discusses proposed changes to future farmland use – The Defuniak Herald & Beach Breeze

Story by STACY MARTIN

On May 20, the Walton County Planning Department hosted a public workshop on potential future land use change for General Agriculture (Ag Gen) and Large Scale Agriculture (LS Ag). Planning Officer Kristen Shell moderated the meeting, which was held at the county courthouse and was attended by 20 members of the general public, as well as county planning and school board officials. The meeting was also accessible on the Zoom video platform.

Shell started the session by giving a background on the topic of the amendment, explaining that in November the Walton County Board of Commissioners (BCC) asked staff to review two changes related to farmland in the county. . The first amendment was for any property subdivided before January 2021, which would become Lots of Record. This amendment was adopted and is in force.

Currently, Walton County allows one housing unit per 10 acres in the Gen. Ag and one housing unit per 40 acres in LS Ag. Second Amendment staff considered allowing landowners to have one housing unit per five-acre lot in both Gen Ag and LS Ag, subject to to have 100 feet of frontage on county maintained roads.

The audience participants all voiced their opposition to the amendment, expressing their concerns as to why the amendment was being proposed. Shell noted that some landowners are interested in using their property for residential development and increasing the use of their property. Another concern expressed was whether this amendment was intended to make unit consolidation easier or more cost effective. The development is expected to be flat containing infrastructure, storm water and with engineer and county approval.

During the workshop, a list was drawn up of the concerns raised by the discussions among the meeting participants. Concerns discussed included: infrastructure, including demands for milling dirt roads and road widening; increase in property tax due to increase in value; impact on schools of increased density; control of stormwater maintenance and runoff from contamination of environmentally sensitive areas, including damage to watersheds caused by rising septic systems; and access to emergency services with public and medical safety.

Participants also discussed the amendment creating compatibility issues due to an increase in dense residential areas alongside farms and the fear of pushing small farmers out of business. There were concerns about the change in the beauty and diversity of the county, and the availability of family lots.

It has also been suggested that the proposed amendment could apparently circumvent the current rezoning process, allowing a change in land use of the property pending the concurrence of all the various analyzes required, thus becoming a preventative change to the planning code. of the territory.

The group attending the meeting requested further personnel analysis, including input from outside bodies governing public safety and schools. Shell said concerns addressed at the workshop would be presented to the BCC.

Amalia H. Mercado