SHALIMAR — The Okaloosa County Commission on Tuesday approved exercising the option to buy 623 acres of Shoal River Ranch land for potential economic development.
The anticipated bank loan to purchase the property is estimated to total almost $2.5 million.
RELATED: (July 2018) Triumph OKs money for Shoal River Ranch
The 623 acres consist of a 103-acre parcel, with frontage on U.S. Highway 90, and a 520-acre parcel that has frontage on Interstate 10. The county plans to eventually lease or sell the parcels to a third party for development purposes.
Located east of Crestview, the overall ranch encompasses a total of more than 10,500 acres north and south of I-10, with the parcels connected by a state-maintained overpass.
RELATED: (April 2015) County rezones Shoal River Ranch tract
A "major employer" has shown interest in a portion of the property that the county will acquire, County Administrator John Hofstad said at Tuesday’s meeting.
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That employer is looking at a 250-acre section, said Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County:
"We’ve hosted that company on the site," Sparks said. "We’re competing with some stiff competition" to land the company.
Industrial mega-sites such as Shoal River Ranch, with its interstate and rail access and location near an airport, are becoming rare in Florida, Commissioner Graham Fountain said.
RELATED: Crestview pursues development while trying to preserve its history (PHOTOS)
Fountain represents District 1, which includes Shoal River Ranch.
"I think this (land acquisition) is a very smart move for us," he said.
District 3 Commissioner Nathan Boyles, whose district includes a part of Crestview, agreed. He said it’s important for the county to diversify its economy as much as possible to help weather tragedies such as a pandemic, hurricane or oil spill.
In December 2017, the commission approved an option agreement with the Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation of Boise, Idaho, for the potential acquisition of property in the area within Shoal River Ranch.
That agreement covers about 1,676 acres. It gave the county the ability to exercise the option on all or any part of the acreage.
Two years ago, the Triumph Gulf Coast board of directors issued final approval to a $1.5 million grant for the now-underway extension of county water and sewer lines to the ranch area. The grant is funded from settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill.
The site improvements are expected to land a major employer and attract more than 500 high-wage net new jobs within five years of site work completion, according to Triumph information. Those benchmarks are among several negotiated performance metrics that will be used to gauge success of the project.