St. Joe Setback

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A court dealt a major setback to the St. Joe Company and its plans to develop 48,000 acres in Bay and Walton Counties.

A federal judge ruled a regional permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers made it to too easy for the company to develop wetlands.

Saint Joe is the largest landowner and developer in the state of Florida. In fact, it owns 40 percent of Bay County, so Thursday's injunction by a federal judge shutting down development of the Watersound North project in Walton County could have a major impact on local growth.

”This regional general permit would have set precedence for the entire state and we believe the permit was insufficient to protect the wetlands," said Diane Brown of Citizens for the Bay.

This ruling could affect St. Joe’s development plans near the proposed airport at West Bay, but supporters of the new airport location aren't worried.

"I don't foresee it having any affect on the Bay County International Airport. This process has moved along at a very legal pace, taking into consideration every environmental issue," said Jimmy Patronis, Jr.

Patronis, who sits on the airport board, believes plans will move ahead as scheduled. He does admit, however, he wouldn't be surprised to face a lawsuit from environmentalists.

"I think as this project evolves and is moving forward, we are prepared and understand there's probably going to be a lawsuit. It's just the cost of doing business in Florida."

The Saint Joe Company says it will mediate the dispute with environmentalists groups so it can resume its development plans as soon as possible.