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County divides over OK to island residential project
A divided Franklin County commission has approved a development to construct nine single family homes on 11 platted lots between West Gulf Beach Drive and West Pine Avenue
The plan by developer Bill Thomas had been modified from the initial site plan after former County Planner Alan Pierce had advised that it would be unwise to have people backing out into line of traffic on West Gulf Beach Drive.
“He solved the problem by getting rid of commercial space,” Pierce told commissioners at the Jan. 18 meeting
Because the houses were set back from the road, the septic fields had ample room and there would be no issue of runoff, Pierce said..
The two lots at 163 W Gulf Beach Drive and 160 W Pine Avenue plan to construct a house 20 feet into the 25-foot setback along Second Street West, and five feet into the 10-foot side setback on the eastern side of the property.
The lots at 147 and 155 West Gulf Beach Drive and 140, 152 and 156 West Pine Avenue asked to construct a house five feet into the 10-foot side setbacks on both sides of the lots.
:Pierce said he objected to the small amount of commercial space – four 450-square-foot spaces – because he felt it could easily be converted into short-term residential space, and Thomas agreed to drop it.
“I was afraid they could have been converted to residential,” Pierce said. “It looked like a set-up for a bed and breakfast, and now we would have more rental units with cars on Gulf Beach Drive. I really didn’t see a benefit to the community.”
Planned and Zoning approved the project by a 3-1 vote and sent it on to the county commission.
But after the presentation, Commissioner Noah Lockley’s motion to approve died for lack of a second, prompting both Pierce and County Attorney Michael Shuler to weigh in, and note that precedent for approving such projects has been set.
“From what I understand, 30 years of prior practice, although not quite the exact standard, granting a variance is consistent with board policy,” said Shuler. “The policy debate was whether to allow C-4 within commercial zoned property. The board has for 30 years allowed that process.”
He said the process was in keeping with the 2018 overlay that was assigned to St. George Island.
Commissioner Bert Boldt then made a motion to approve, which Lockley second.
Chairman Ricky Jones said he would like to take a look at revising the policy but cast the deciding vote. Commissioners Smokey Parrish and Jessica Ward voted no.