Stakeholders Share Concerns over Proposed Development Changes

Posted on April 21, 2021 by Romi White

Developer Edwin Henry, who has expressed frustration with the county’s lack of response to emails and requests for information, pictured addressing commissioners during Tuesday’s Land Development Code workshop alongside County Planning and Zoning Director Shawn Ward, left. Photo by Romi White.

Local stakeholders are voicing concerns over proposed revisions to Santa Rosa County’s Land Development Code, including how the changes could increase costs for residents and businesses and may subject the county to lawsuits.

Proposed changes to the LCD include: increased storm water and erosion control standards, land clearing and tree protection regulations, wetlands buffering and sidewalk requirements.

“There seems to be no shame to Santa Rosa’s quest to pile on already high house costs,” stated Blaine Flynn, president of the Home Builders Association of West Florida.

Flynn says currently proposed LDC regulations will cost a new home buyer $18,475 more than the current LDC. Additionally, he asserts the changes would cost a small business $21,000 in new regulations.

The Navarre Area Board of Realtors via Executive Angela Campbell, on behalf of NABOR leadership, also weighed in on the proposed changes via email to county staff.

“The substantive changes in the LDC rewrite include surprising new restrictions on previously permitted and customary uses of lots for homeowners,” said Campbell, who went on to say the resulting increased costs of development could expose the County to claims for compensation under the Burt J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act.  

Additionally, Campbell said proposed site plan review requirements are “disorganized and unclear” and should not be required for single-family homes.

“Some aspects of the draft LDC arguably are not well organized and are not user friendly.”

Other suggestions from NABOR include deleting any “unnecessary and burdensome” submittal requirements, addressing “poorly formatted and difficult to read” tables and revisiting tree clearing and protection and storm water protection requirements.

“One of the stated goals of the LDC update is ‘to make it easier for developers and the public to use and understand’ the County’s land development regulations. However, in some ways the draft LDC would appear to have the opposite effect, resulting in a set of regulations that are more cumbersome and less user-friendly,” Campbell said.

The county first presented its draft of the roughly 500-page LDC rewrite to the public in February 2020 after spending more than a year making revisions.

The code, which governs how property owners can use their land and regulates development, had not been updated since its adoption in 1991.

Since an August 2020 meeting about the draft LDC, some stakeholders had grown frustrated with a lack of communication from county staff.

Edwin Henry, who led a group of stakeholders in meetings with county staff early on during the revision process, sent multiple requests following the August 2020 meeting — without receiving a response.

The county on Tuesday hosted the first of two workshops on the LDC update. The second workshop will take place, starting at 1 p.m., on Wednesday, April 28 at the County Administrative Complex, located at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton.