MILTON — Santa Rosa commissioners’ recent approval of Blue Water Holdings Santa Rosa County Inc.’s permit to build a construction and demolition debris disposal pit in East Milton is a step toward ending litigation between the county and the company.

Here is a brief history of Blue Water’s attempt to construct the facility:


February 2007 — Blue Water buys the 160-acre parcel.
January 2008 — Blue Water receives the required state permit to construct a lined C&DD facility, which it renewed with the state before the Jan. 11, 2013 expiration date.
February 2009 — The county issues a site plan development order, but Blue Water could not go forward with construction due to effects of the economic downturn at the time.
Jan. 9, 2013 — The county environmental manager and engineer recommend approval of a C&DD facility.
Feb. 14, 2013 — The county denies Blue Water’s application.
Feb. 28, 2013 — The county adopts an ordinance expanding the East Milton Wellfield Protection Overlay District now encompassing the Blue Water property.

Blue Water holds, according to its attorney, Jesse Rigby, that the 2009 development order gave it a grandfathered right to operate the C&DD facility.

Construction and demolition debris at the site may include drywall, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, ceramics, pipes and plumbing fixtures, according to the University of Florida.

However, with the board’s unanimous approval of the permit, the litigation is largely settled, according to Rigby.

“That aspect was resolved by the issuance of the permit,” Rigby said. “You heard at the county meeting, (Commissioner Sam) Parker said $8 to $10 million. That would have been their risk assessment. The aspect not resolved, in our opinion, is additional damages, compensation resulting from February of 2013 to last week, when the owner was not able to move forward.”

However, the county could make an offer for the land, Rigby said.

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“My client has never been opposed to entertaining an offer from the county,” he said. “The county has every right, and we haven’t contested this, to restrict the use of the property. Except, when they do so, they need to compensate the property owner fairly … The only option is, in effect, to acquire it … by negotiation with the owner or eminent domain.”

United Way Santa Rosa County Major Gifts Manager Kyle Holley wants to see the county find a way to acquire the property. Holley let the county know he received two leads regarding companies looking for land; one for over 600 acres and, for the other, he didn’t specify acreage but said would bring over 1,000 jobs to the county.

Holley represents property owners around the Blue Water parcel and they’re interested in seeing business come to East Milton.

“The county avoided a big expense to the taxpayer, avoiding litigation, which could be $8 to $9 million,” he said. “If they wanted to preserve the space for business, they’d have to buy it but purchasing is probably less than litigation would have been. That’s why the way I framed comments was, should we go for excellence or go for mediocrity.”

That the county is even included in these two companies’ seeing what’s available in the southeast is a good sign, according to SRC Economic Development Director Shannon Ogletree.

“Larger companies are taking larger looks at us, so I believe we’re doing things right because [of] companies of that size even considering us,” he said.

In January, Ogletree said his department was working on a project called Blue Marlin. The company would hire 400 employees and represent an $80 million capital investment, according to Ogletree.

Despite the project falling through in February, Ogletree remains optimistic.

“You learn more from failures than wins … We put together one heck of a package for that one. Other people took notice,” he said.