Zoning Board Member Quits in Protest Over Land Development Code Decisions

Posted on July 15, 2021 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County Zoning Board Member Sam Mullins on Tuesday resigned in protest, saying county commissioners repeatedly ignore their own zoning board’s recommendations. He also accused the commission of intentionally placing controversial items at the end of agendas, making it difficult for citizens to stay late and speak out.

The breaking point for Mullins was the Commission’s rejection of two of three zoning board recommendations on proposed amendments to the Land Development Code, which governs development within the county.

The Commission choose not to eliminate the clear cutting of trees and shot down a proposal to require a 25% buffer of land in certain new developments. They also elected to reduce a proposed 50-foot vegetative buffer from wetlands to 25 feet.

“The whole board says forget what our (advisors) told us to do,” said Mullins. “You all pass these things and allow the homes to go in, then we have infrastructure problems with drainage, with roads, because you all allow that.”

More than 100 people, including many Save Our Soundside members in protest of clear cutting, attended the meeting, which lasted nearly 9 hours.

Mullins also confronted District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech, who is the current chairman of the commission and presides over the meetings.

“You all filibustered and pushed us to the very end of the meeting, again, when we had over 100 people in the audience, and the people went home, again…You all do it on purpose, and you know you do, Mr. Piech,” Mullins said. “Filibuster and hope that we’ll all go home so that you all can have your meeting and push through anything that you want to push through without any objections from the public.”

Commissioner James Calkins, who nominated Mullins to serve on the zoning board, said land owner rights trump concerns over clear cutting. He also argued the 25% buffer requirement would basically “take” land from owners.

Additionally, during Tuesday’s meeting, current County Attorney Greg Stewart pulled a scheduled public hearing to repeal the county’s Pit Safety Ordinance, which imposed fencing and slope requirements following the 1998 deaths of three children in East Milton who perished when a pit embankment collapsed as they sought shelter from a storm. Stewart said staff elected to keep the ordinance in place and “enhance” related restrictions in the LDC.

The proposed changes to the LDC will be adopted during a July 29 Adoption Hearing which will take place from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. at the County Administrative Complex, located at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton.