WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — After a seven-hour meeting last Tuesday, Walton County officials approved plans for a new luxury apartment complex in Santa Rosa Beach, despite a lawsuit filed by some neighbors.
The dispute has to do with the road that was originally going to serve as an entrance to the project.
Teresa Tolbert and her husband Joe Strouse have owned 70 acres off of Bishop-Tolbert road for the last 43 years.
She said the county has always considered Bishop-Tolbert road to be private, until last year.
That’s when developer Adam Brock bought the 84 acres nearby to build 187 apartments.
Now the county is claiming that the road is public.
During Tuesday’s commission meeting the couple presented their case and asked commissioners to reject the final plans.
“This is a private road, this is a pending lawsuit going on to the county, that can clearly show you that this has been a private road and will always be a private road,” Strouse said.
Strouse said the county has never done any work on the road.
He claimed he personally pays $10,000 every five years to re-rock the road.
The developer agrees with the county but said even if the road isn’t public it won’t kill the project.
“Our position is still the same, we believe that the county’s position is that it’s public and that’s what we have been shown through the county,” Developer Adam Brock said. “If it was determined to be private we would be accepting of that and just make that access point only to be used in times of need in terms of life safety.”
But there’s more to this than just road ownership.
Tolbert claims the apartment complex will cause many issues, including stormwater run-off.
“He is more than welcome to build a private community within the community that already exists, instead of at the expense of our community we have to give it up and become part of his community and the road you ask for takes Chat Holley straight to my front gate so you’re basically getting forced out in a way,” Strouse said.
Brock addressed the stormwater concerns, saying he’s including retention ponds in the plans.
Commissioners unanimously approved the final plans under the condition that, whether or not the road is deemed private or public, Bishop-Tolbert road would only be used as an emergency exit.
Brock will have to prepare a development order and bring it back to the commissioners for approval.