The Board of County Commissioner and their counterparts with the city of Port St. Joe will sit down today and discuss a proposed housing development in Highland View.
A workshop is scheduled today at 4 p.m. ET at the Emergency Operations Center behind the County Courthouse.
Both boards have noted that they are currently working well together, want to avoid legal action and are willing to listen to views opposite their positions.
But polar opposite those positions are.
The Board of County Commissioners discussed the development and workshop during Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting, but mostly listened to the opposition expressed by Administrator Michael Hammond.
Hammond reiterated that the board needed to take a “firm line” in opposition of a proposed annexation of the property.
Noting he was not an attorney, Hammond called it “dubious” that city commissioners last week approved for first reading an ordinance creating a land-use change for the 9-acre parcel in question even though the parcel is not yet city property.
The annexation of the property, for which the city also held a first reading last week, is the central point of dispute.
The BOCC’s position is that the city can not annex into Highland View without a referendum of the community.
That based on a provision in a 2005 interlocal agreement which remained intact after a 2013 update.
The land-use change, Hammond noted, would allow up to 30 units per acre, far above any existing density in the county.
“This is a horrible plan,” Hammond said. “That density on U.S. 98 is not conducive to be in front of a community that has existed there for (decades).
“Those are Destin and Panama City Beach numbers. We’ll be Destin in a few years. It will open Pandora’s box. This kind of growth would be a massive thorn in our sides.”
The primary concern, Hammond said, is the precedent such zoning would have and the potential impacts of that precedent in other areas of the county.
And the impacts from additional traffic, height equal to El Governor Motel, a parking lot the size of the one at the Port City Shopping Center (Piggly Wiggly), the project does not fit the county, Hammond said.
“It would be a horrible precedent to set,” he added.
City commissioners could not be further from that position.
Last week, they moved ahead with the first readings of the ordinances to annex the property, the former Highland View School site, and changes to the land-use and zoning despite receiving a formal letter from the county requesting a workshop before any city action.
“We should not stop moving forward,” said Port St. Joe Commissioner David Ashbrook.
City commissioners encouraged the dialogue, but emphasized they would act on the city’s interest alone.
According to plans provided by the developer, the project aims to construct an “apartment complex” with a maximum of 170 units with no building more than 40 feet high.
The current plan would work out to about 18 units per acre; R-3 limits the number of units to 15 so the developer is proposing to move up one.
The project would be to create long-term rental workforce housing, according to the developer and would include 360 new parking spaces.