A major development project application known as Point Washington Preserve was denied by the Walton County Commission Tuesday night, although the project was already semi-operational and had hosted a Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and Business After Hours.
Owner Doug Liles explained to commissioners that he started the process of Point Washington four years ago as a farm and raised chickens. He obtained a permit for that, built a pavilion to host events, and then built a barn. It was the construction of the barn that sent things awry as Liles did not have a permit for that, although he told commissioners he thought he did.
"The county's Land Development Code and Comp Plan contradict themselves," said Liles. "You have to have three uses to operate and I only had two of the three."
The project is totally green and off-the-grid, powered by solar panels and Liles had wanted to offer it as an event venue and more.
Phase I was to operate a 693-square-foot multi-purpose building as well as a 5,247 square foot civic pavilion.
Liles was also requesting conceptual approval of Phase II, III, and IV to be constructed on 9.76 acres with a future land use of Town Center One, lodging, and 70 residential units.
The project is located at 975 J.D. Miller Road and is surrounded by state forest land.
Code Enforcement cited Liles in September 2017 for not having a development order for the parcel.
Liles said he was disappointed but not surprised by the denial.
"The commissioners that voted against the project did not even give a reason. Their mind was made up before they ever entered the room," he said. "The Planning Department, Technical Review panel, civil engineers, and Planning Commission all approved the project. This is retaliation, selective enforcement, and vindictive prosecution."
Liles has a lawsuit filed against Walton County for alleged stormwater violations.
"I believe the only way to eliminate corruption from Walton County government is to not file civil suits but to file federal and state criminal racketeering charges to be presented to the grand jury," he said.
Liles said the denial will be appealed.
The vote by commissioners was 2-2 with one commissioner absent.