CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County commissioners decided Tuesday to step back and take a “big picture look” at a proposal to build some 900 homes on a 689-acre parcel between Crestview and Laurel Hill.
Commissioner Nathan Boyles suggested tabling consideration of an amendment to change the property's zoning to allow Henry Homes to begin planning a subdivision expected to take 55 years to complete.
His motion to do so was passed by a 4-1 vote. Commission Chairman Graham Fountain, in whose district the subdivision would be built, opposed the measure. The amendment will be reconsidered again in July.
As with most development in North Okaloosa, traffic considerations were what drove the decision to delay a vote to rezone the land from rural/agricultural to rural residential. The Henry Homes project would be built south of two-lane Bill Lundy Road, which feeds onto a two-lane portion of already over-taxed State Road 85.
Boyles said he’d like to see long-range transportation plans considered alongside comprehensive development plans before giving Henry Homes the go-ahead to build.
He noted that the Florida Department of Transportation, in its own review of the proposed development, had notified the county it had serious questions about adding to the existing travel load.
“In DOT language that was actually a pretty stark warning,” Boyles said of the agency's commentary on the development. “They’re saying ‘if you think this works, give us an analysis of how this works, because we don’t think it works with regard to existing capacity trip traffic.’ ”
He called upon the county's public works and growth management staff to work together to provide evidence that five-year and 20-year models for transportation infrastructure expansion are compatible with plans for the scope of development Henry Homes envisions.
Boyles said he wasn’t picking specifically on the Henry Homes development, but wants to find better ways overall to assess amendment requests like the one presented Tuesday.
“We need to have a system in place to scale back the amendment requests to the realistic infrastructure likely to be in place,” he said. “This is trying to find what our balance point is going to be.”
Edwin Henry, who represented Henry Homes at the meeting, told board members that the high-end homes he would build in the Auburn community are constructed at a pace of between 15 and 20 a year. He said it would be at least a couple of years before any construction is begun in the new subdivision and about 55 years before it would be built out.
Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel sided with Boyles on the need for careful study of the Henry Homes plan.
“It behooves us to look at capacity, improvements and growth. We need to slow down and take a look before we plunge ahead,” she said.