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Ashwood Defeated - You Did It!

Published on February 29, 2008 by Sherri Dodsworth under Business, Cape San Blas, Forgotten Coast, Port St. Joe, Real Estate

CONGRATULATIONS – YOU DID IT! Thanks to your avalanche of emails and phone calls to commissioners yesterday, what looked like a done deal on Tuesday went down in defeat Thursday when the board voted 4 to 1 to deny Ashwood Development’s request to add nearly 100 lots to Ovation for construction of duplexes.

Commissioner Jerry Barnes said in all his time on the board no issue has ever elicited this type of response – by last night he had had received over 150 calls, and they were still pouring in this morning. Commissioner Bill Williams had pretty much the same experience.

Thank you so much for taking the time to get involved – you made a difference, and our Cape is so much the better for it.

Here is a detailed account of what transpired at the meeting:

County Commissioners Veto Ovation’s Density Increase
Marie Logan – 2008-02-28 12:15:00

Faced with a packed meeting room Thursday morning, the Gulf County Commissioners voted 4-1 to deny a density increase to the developer of Ovations subdivision on St. Joseph Peninsula.

Voting to deny the request were Commissioners Bill Williams, Nathan Peters, Jerry Barnes and Carmen McLemore. Voting for the density change was commission chair Billy Traylor.

During Tuesday night’s regular county commission meeting, commissioners scheduled the Thursday morning meeting because they could not come to a decision on the density issue for the development.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, William Harrison, attorney for the Ashwood Development Company out of Atlanta, asked the board to increase the density of the project by adding the acreage of the submerged lands attached to the development to the total acreage in the project to obtain the necessary amount of buildable land in order to affect the change.

It was pointed out Tuesday night and again this morning that the submerged lands had already been figured into the original equation when the Ovations project was approved by the board in 2005.

Numerous people addressed the board, expressing opposition or approval of the density change. While everyone was cordial, feelings obviously ran high on both sides.

Primary objections cited to the increased density in the development included:

  • increased problems for an already overtaxed local volunteer fire department;
  • non-notification to property owners in and around the development of the proposed changes;
  • radical changes to the original development plans, which property owners had not agreed to;
  • violation of the county comprehensive land use plan, which could open the door for more requests to change the plan;
  • punitive action against the county by the state Department of Community Affairs, which regulates the comprehensive plan;
  • judgment against the county by the state Department of Environmental Protection regarding the upcoming decision to move the 30-year erosion line on the Peninsula;
  • setting a dangerous precedent for uncontrolled growth in south Gulf County;

Those in favor talked about the critical economic situation in Gulf County and argued that the work generated by the density increase would provide immediate relief in the form of construction jobs.

Although the developer promised to use local labor and local materials in building more houses in the development, he said he could not guarantee that local materials and labor would be used because of “time constraints and quality control.”

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