County agrees to grant City of GB Conditional Use Permit

Posted on August 22, 2016 by Mat Pellegrino

The City of Gulf Breeze will save themselves a little over $22 million thanks to a decision made by Santa Rosa County Commissioners last Thursday.
Shortly after South Santa Rosa News went to press last Thursday, county commissioners OK’d granting the city a Conditional Use Permit to expand their wastewater treatment plant on Tiger Point Golf Course.
The agreement came after nearly 4 years of back and forth between the two entities in regards to the expansion, which will save the city millions of dollars as compared to building a new wastewater treatment plant.
The city’s only other option was to build a new wastewater treatment plant on Bergren Road in Midway, which would have cost the city roughly $12 million more than if they were able to expand it on the golf course.
The city was notified earlier this year that they had until Sept. 1 to make a decision on whether to expand their treatment plant on the golf course or build a new one in Midway. That will give them 4 years to have a new/expanded plant up and running by 2020, per the Department of Environmental Protection. But that decision was on hold until they could figure out whether the county would grant them conditional use to expand their treatment plant on the golf course.
Back in 2012, when the city purchased TPGC, they agreed to a Conditional Use Agreement with the county where they had to adhere to 15 stipulations before they could get a permit to expand their treatment plant on the golf course. One of those items on the list was to get the west golf course back up and running. The course has been maintained, but not open to play since after Hurricane Ivan.
The county claimed the city has not adhered to the 15 conditions outlined in their agreement and was not allowing the city to expand their treatment plant.
Ultimately, the city hired attorney David Smolker and his firm to review the conditional use agreement to see if the city had the option to opt out of some of the agreements or if they had to adhere legally to all 15.
The attorney determined that per the Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine, the city is not legally obligated to adhere to the 15 stipulations outlined in the county’s request and knocked down that list to 4.
“The conditions we agreed to are not legal because they have no relationship to the expansion of the treatment plant,” Eddy said. “That hearing we had last Thursday was asking the county to modify that list (for the city).”
Ultimately, the county agreed to knock the list of conditions from 15 down to 4, per Smolker’s findings.
The four conditions the attorney stated the city should adhere to in order to expand the plant include:
– The city cannot put commercial development on the property.
– The conditional use should only be for the 15 acres needed to expand the treatment plant.
– The city should conduct landscaping projects that will buffer the treatment facility from surrounding residential homes and also add upgrades to the new facility to keep the smell from the facility from traveling to nearby homes.
– The city should also address any odor concerns or complaints immediately.
According to Gulf Breeze City Manager Edwin “Buz” Eddy, the agreement the county and city came to last week will not only save the city money, but the South Santa Rosa Utilities System customers.
If the city had been forced to construct a new treatment plant on Bergren Road, they would have to spend an estimated $20 million for the facility itself, and pay out an additional $600,000 per year for 20 years to hire additional staff for the new plant. Now that the city can expand on TPGC, they only have to spend a proposed $10 million.
If the city had been forced to build on Bergren Road, the additional cost would then be passed onto the SSRUS customers and would equate to roughly $17 more a month on customers’ bills. Over 6,200 bills go out to SSRUS water customers every month.
The city has a conditional use permit in place already on Bergren Road, which they were granted back in 2005, but thanks to the decision last Thursday, the city will save their money and expand on TPGC.
Despite the county’s decision last week, county commissioner Lane Lynchard said the residents of Santa Rosa Shores, who encompass the golf course, shouldn’t be frustrated.
“I know a lot of people want to see the (west) course reopen. This doesn’t take that off of the table,” Lynchard said. “At some point there will be a site plan that will be submitted (for the treatment plant expansion). Certainly there will be appropriate opportunity for not only Santa Rosa Shores, but everyone to have input on that.”
At the meeting last week, the city stated they would work with the SRS to allow them to have input on the expansion once plans are drawn up. Lynchard requested the city submit the site plans to SRS beautification committee once they are drawn up. Gulf Breeze Mayor Matt Dannheisser said at the meeting that the city will make sure SRS has input on the project before ground breaks.
“At some point there will be a site plan that will be submitted. Certainly as part of that process, a site plan will be prepared and there will be an appropriate opportunity for not only Santa Rosa Shores, but everyone to have input on that,” Dannheisser said at the meeting.