CRESTVIEW — The Yellow River Plantation subdivision's developer eventually could, with state and Okaloosa County approval, build hundreds of single-family homes on adjacent, currently wooded land.
The County Commission on Tuesday took the first major step toward making that possibility a reality by unanimously agreeing to send the developer’s requested large-scale comprehensive plan amendment to state agencies for review.
Coordinated by the state Department of Economic Opportunity, the agencies will consider whether to approve changing the future land-use map of six unincorporated parcels that encompass a total of about 689 acres.
If that and other approvals are granted, the overall property would have the potential of containing more than 900 single-family homes.
The site of possible development is west of State Road 85, east of Welannee Boulevard and south of Bill Lundy Road, and is owned by the U.I.L. Family Limited Partnership of Pace.
According to state records, the partnership’s registered agent is Edwin Henry. He owns the Pace-based Henry Company Homes, which developed Yellow River Plantation.
"We’ve built approximately 20 homes a year (over the past five years) in the Yellow River Plantation," Henry told commissioners, adding that it could take about 40 years to reach build-out status on that ongoing project.
The adjacent, proposed development also would be a long-term project, and each of its lots would be no larger than a half-acre, Henry said.
County Growth Management Director Elliot Kampert said the developer proposes building about 42 homes per year "over time" for the proposed subdivision.
The developer seeks to have the property’s future land-use map designation changed from agriculture to rural residential. If state officials approve that change, the developer would then seek to have the county rezone the property from agriculture to rural residential.
The overall approval process could take many months. Following that process, the county would begin to review more specific details about the proposed project, such as the location of access roads to the potential subdivision.
After subtracting wetlands and areas for roads, parks and other infrastructure, the developable area might total about 458 acres, according to information Henry provided to the county. At a possible density of two homes per acre, the overall site could have a total of 915 homes.
"Based on this data, any future development of this site, reasonably speaking, would be accomplished by a "multi-phase construction/development plan" and could take approximately 20 to 22 years to build out," Henry wrote in a report to the county.
"We don’t have that actual number (of new homes) because we don’t have the actual development (plan) in front of us," Kampert said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Several Welannee Boulevard residents who attended the meeting expressed concerns about the proposed development, such as its effect on State Road 85 as well as neighborhood roads.
Commissioner Nathan Boyles said the future land-use map amendment would, if approved, allow for higher-density development on the roughly 689-acre site, which would mean more vehicles on area roads.
But the county shouldn’t hold up any developer to make them fix S.R. 85, Boyles said. Expanding that highway to accommodate growth is a Crestview, county and Florida Department of Transportation problem, he said.
Boyles also said that while expanding S.R. 85 to six lanes is a top priority of the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization, that potential project has not been funded, might not get funded and cannot be relied on to satisfy future traffic concerns.
Commission Chairwoman Carolyn Ketchel said perhaps the county should not approve more developments until it’s able to get new roads in place to handle the future growth. But Boyles deemed putting a moratorium on the private use of property "pretty draconian in nature."
Earlier in the meeting, Commission Vice-Chairman Graham Fountain said the commission understands residents’ concerns about the proposed, large-scale housing development, the site for which is in his district.
"Anytime you add homes, there’s a concern," Fountain said. "But we live in a great country, in a country that anybody who owns property has the right to develop the property and make use of the property as long as they meet the requirements. I’ve reviewed all of the supporting documentation and everything appears to be in order, and I feel sure that it will be in order as they move forward with future developments there."
Commissioner Trey Goodwin said while the county has pressing needs for new and larger roads, it also has big needs for more housing.