The Real Deal Miami

Walton County land-use action draws challenge

October 18, 2015 03:00PM

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Walton County has 15 coastal dune lakes.

Walton County has 15 coastal dune lakes.

Residents and conservationists challenged an effort by Walton County to amend its comprehensive land-use plan to make home construction along coastal dune lakes easier.

Walton County residents with existing homes along coastal dune lakes, together with the Florida Wildlife Federation and 1000 Friends of Florida, have asked the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
to review the county amendment to its comprehensive plan, adopted September 8.

The amendment allows owners of land along the 15 coastal dune lakes in Walton County to obtain a variance to build on 25 to 50 percent of their property.

The conservation groups that oppose Walton County have retained Tallahassee law firm Theriaque & Spain to challenge the county’s land-use amendment.

“Although the county’s stated purpose for the plan amendment is to protect private property rights, it must do so in a manner that also protects the integrity of Walton County’s coastal dune lakes,” attorney David Theriaque said in a press release.

At their meeting on September 8, when Walton County commissioners amended the county’s comprehensive plan, officials of several government agencies warned the commissioners against approving the amendment without a full analysis of the impact. These agencies included the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ryan Smart, a spokesman for 1000 Friends of Florida, said in press release that the Walton County action “circumvents fundamental tenets of Florida’s growth management process” and will “threaten a globally imperiled ecosystem.” [Florida Today] — Mike Seemuth