St. Joe Plan Moves Forward

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BAY COUNTY-- At Tuesday's commission meeting, St. Joe Company officials talked about the latest expansion project of the massive Bay-Walton housing development plan.

"This thing is so big. And so many years, that our staff and Jorge's staff can't wrap their arms around it and say exactly what's going to happen and when," said Dan Shaw, Assistant County Manager.

A few months ago, St. Joe Co. applied to change the already approved West Bay Sector Plan by adding more than 23,000 acres of land in Bay County. The commission voted to send the proposed amendment to the state's Department of Economic Opportunity.

"As the economy has started improving, people starting feeling a little bit better about themselves. Phone calls have been increasing. From industries and different companies," said Jorge Gonzalez, St. Joe Senior Vice President.

In Bay County, the total plan acreage is now 97,000.

The new plan also adds three new land use categories, including open space recreation, long term preservation and a town center. The town center would include commercial, retail spaces and services.

One local resident says the project, which is similar to central Florida's Villages Senior Citizens Development, is missing an important component.

"Going to bring in 319,000 additional people, over half of them more than 55-years old and there's no provisions that there's going to be a place to bury them."

Every five years, the plan will be reassessed by Bay County staff and every year St. Joe officials must give an update. Commissioner Mike Thomas says over reviewing can become a problem.

"i have a problem with being cumbersome with reviews and takes away the time and efforts of staff that at times construction people and homeowners wanting to get in houses are waiting for permits. If we are over reviewing something, i have a problem with that," said Mike Thomas, Bay County Commissioner.

The plan will be reviewed by several state agencies.