Walton Co. Moves Forward with Bay-Walton Sector Plan

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BAY COUNTY-- Walton County Commissioners are giving the St. Joe Company a green light for the overall Bay-Walton Sector Plan in their county.

Now, it's Bay County's turn to give the thumbs up or down on moving ahead.

But even if both county commissions approve the overall plan, a long approvals process awaits them.

Officials from both counties say they're ready to move forward with the St. Joe Company.

A massive housing development plan, spanning the next 50 years, is still in the early stages.

"They approved the large plan. The over-all, mile-high view," Walton Co. Public Information Officer Louis Svehla said.

But the St. Joe Company still needs Walton County Commissioners to approve each portion of the Bay-Walton Sector Plan before even thinking about breaking ground.

"As the company moves forward with their plan, each one of those developments as they move forward will be under the same process to get approval," Svehla said.

The 110,000 acre project spans across county lines.

To move forward, Bay County must take the same steps. Then, it moves on to state agencies.

"If the state makes any changes or recommends anything, it comes back to us, and then we make changes too," Bay Co. Commissioner Mike Thomas said. "This is normally when the public gets more involved, and if there are some things they want we can tweak it that way too."

Officials from both counties say it's a step in the right direction.

"There's a lot of people that argue against growth, but if you're not growing, you're dying," Thomas said.

"They are now able to move forward with looking at the smaller parcels and address the things the board has asked them to address. Some of those things have to do with beach access, parking, storm water," Svehla said.

"Bay County is a beautiful place. Whether you like it or not, it's still a beautiful place. And people are going to come here, so we need to make sure that the people who come and the development that we do is compatible to something that we want," Thomas said.

Bay County Commissioners say they'll talk about and vote on the overall plan at their meeting Tuesday.

Half the units will be available to retirees, the other half is open to anyone.