Daily News - October 25, 2012, By DUSTY RICKETTS
MILTON— The No. 1 reason military bases close or missions move to other locations is encroachment.
Santa Rosa County commissioners on Thursday accepted the final version of the Eglin Air Force Base Small Area Studies report on encroachment, and will begin discussing its implementation in the near future.
The Northwest Florida Military Sustainability Partnership, a joint venture between Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties and Eglin, has been conducting the small area study since May 2011. It was recommended by the 2009 Joint Land Use Study, and is designed to help protect Eglin and its missions.
“Your community knows the economic impact … from the military, not only from Eglin but from Whiting Field,” said Celeste Warner, vice president of Matrix Design Group, which conducted the study. “As you know, there is over $5.2 billion of economic impact that comes to this region.”
The study recommends Santa Rosa commissioners amend their land development code to create a new overlay zone — the Eglin Military Airport Zone — and enact 35- to 50-foot height restrictions for structures, depending on where they are in the zone. Officials also should identify land uses that would be compatible with the base’s mission and reduce the maximum allowable density of developments.
The study has proved controversial in Okaloosa County, where north county residents have called it an attempted land-grab by Eglin. It was much better received Thursday in Santa Rosa County.
County Commissioner Don Salter said Santa Rosa has been forward thinking in protecting Whiting Field in the past, and hopes officials continue to do the same when it comes to adopting the new study.
“It is well recognized when it comes to military base and mission protection. You only get one chance to do it,” Salter said. “Once growth occurs, it’s almost impossible to go back and undo that growth. I think we’re very forward thinking on this.”
County Administrator Hunter Walker said commissioners will have to decide what portions of the study they want to pursue. Adopting the recommendations will require changing the county’s land development code.
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