The Board of County Commissioners would like clear and full ownership of the Industrial Park in Dalkeith.



The Board of County Commissioners would like clear and full ownership of the Industrial Park in Dalkeith.

The board has requested the U.S. Economic Development Administration to kindly step out of the way.

During a special meeting last week, commissioners approved a request from administrator Don Butler to send a letter to the EDA asking the agency relinguish rights to the Industrial Park.

“It would make life a lot simpler for us with that building,” Butler said.

The Industrial Park was constructed using $536,000 in funding from the EDA which arrived in 1996.

Butler noted that the language of the agreement includes provisions citing the “life of the building” as 20 years.

That lifespan would have expired in 2016 and Butler said it was reasonable for the county to ask the agency to “relinguish” any rights to that building after those 20 years.

At one time, the entire park was once entirely occupied by Taunton Truss, but with the downtown to the national economy came contraction for that company nearly a decade ago.

Since that time, the county has had companies interested in both leasing and, in one instance, purchasing the building, but the EDA remained a hurdle requiring a sign-off on any deal.

The paperwork alone dissuaded at least one company.

Butler contended the county would likely have an easier time trying to secure occupants for the building if the federal government was not required to finalize a deal.

Ballparks and parks

A discussion regarding the fifth penny of Tourist Development Council bed tax and how it could be used evolved from a plea from Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr.

Quinn sought suggestions for securing funding to upgrade parks in his district, particularly the ballparks on 10th Street in Port St. Joe.

“It really needs some update,” Quinn said.

Quinn noted that the sports complex once contemplated as a joint county/city venture off Field of Dreams Drive across from the Gulf/Franklin Campus of Gulf Coast State College has long been erased as a vision.

The hope for a state-of-the-art sports facility was a victim of the downturn in the national economy and the cratering of property values locally.

Could, Quinn wondered, a portion of the proceeds of the TDC fifth penny, established to fund parks and recreation projects promoting tourism in the county, could be used, particularly at 10th Street?

“It is in the city, yes, but it is also in the county,” said Commissioner Phil McCroan in agreeing that the ballparks need an overhaul.

McCroan is a former city commissioner.

The TDC already provides $10,000 for parks to both Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka, Butler noted.

Two key hurdles exist, according to Commissioner Ward McDaniel and county attorney Jeremy Novak.

For McDaniel it was the reality that the 10th Street ballparks were in the city.

“I am reluctant to setp in since it is a city park, but maybe there is something we can do to get the ball rolling,” McDaniel said.

Novak noted that the fifth penny could only be used to promote tourism; for example, attracting tournaments, softball or soccer, to the county.

Commissioners pressed to begin a dialogue with Port St. Joe commissioners on potential funding to overhaul the 10th Street park.

Land-clearing permit

Commissioners held a second reading and adopted an ordinance which established a land-clearing permit required for properties within the previously-defined coastal construction corridor, essentially within one mile of the coast with some exceptions as established by the BOCC.

Property owners clearing property within that zone must secure a permit, costing $500, to clear their land.

If no critical habitat for sea turtles, several species of shorebirds and a beach mouse, is found, the property owner is okayed to move ahead with proposed and permitted development.

However, if critical habitat is evidenced, there is a check box the property owner must complete, including environmental surveys, before development can move ahead.

The land-clearing permit is one step the county is taking as it adopts a Habitat Conservation Plan which will turn over coastal development permitting from federal agencies to the county.