1000 Friends of Florida is a statewide organization whose mission is to promote growth management and environmental stewardship in all of Florida’s 67 counties. We continue to maintain a special focus on protecting the environment, economy and quality of life from incompatible development in Walton County.
In recent years, we have provided expert legal advice and planning assistance in support of citizens engaged in several growth and development debates in the county:
• We joined with local allies in challenging Walton County on its plan to repeal environmental protections for the county’s incomparable Coastal Dune Lakes. This led to a settlement in which the county committed to conducting a study of human impacts on the Dune Lakes.
• After reviewing that study, we highlighted for county leaders the findings and recommendations that we believe deserve their ongoing attention.
• We offered to provide expert planning testimony to help Walton County residents challenge changes to the county’s comprehensive plan that would have increased rural residential densities by 500 percent. That challenge resulted in a settlement between the two sides.
• We committed to author a friend of the court brief in support of the South Walton Community Council and other plaintiffs in the case Imhof v. Walton County, important litigation to enforce the county’s comprehensive plan and ensure development along highway 30 A meets high standards.
Walton County 2070
In the spring of 2019, 1000 Friends of Florida commissioned a study from University of Florida researchers on how Walton County could be impacted by a near tripling in the county’s population between 2010 and 2070, from about 55,000 in 2010 to almost 144,000 predicted by 2070.
The study, derived from our statewide Florida 2070 and Water 2070 reports, presented two scenarios for future land and water use in Walton County based on the population growth projections: a 2070 Trend, if development continues at its current density; and a 2070 Alternative, if average development density in the county increases by a modest 20 percent.
Based on the 2070 Trend scenario, if patterns of growth and development in Walton County remain the same as in 2010, the amount of developed land will more than double, from 11 percent of the county to 27 percent. Most of that developed land will be converted from timber property.
The Alternative 2070 scenario shows that if more compact development patterns are followed and an ambitious increase in land conservation is implemented, almost 32,000 acres in the county will be spared from development, easing the stress on the county’s environment, economy and quality of life.
Under the Alternative scenario, protected land would increase by 130,000 acres, from 34 percent of the county now to 54 percent in 2070. There would still be an increase in developed land from 11 percent of the county to 22 percent. But considering the size of the projected population increase, that’s not surprising.
On May 15, 1000 Friends President Paul Owens presented findings from the Walton County 2070 study at a forum on smart growth sponsored by the South Walton Community Council in Santa Rosa Beach. The PowerPoint that accompanied his presentation is available here.
At the same forum, 1000 Friends Policy and Planning Director Thomas Hawkins explained the history and basics of the process that governs growth in Florida, and how citizens can most effectively be engaged in that process. He also delivered an update on how legislation dealing with growth management fared during the 2019 session of the Florida Legislature. The PowerPoint for his presentation is available here.
1000 Friends’ participation in the forum underscores the fact that we continue to advocate for citizens who are concerned about the future of Walton County.