The site for Santa Rosa County’s new judicial center has been found.

CountyCommissionsapproved the purchase of a 22-acre lot on U.S. Highway 90, just west of Avalon Boulevard, to house the proposed judicial center by a vote of 3-1. Commissioner Jim Melvin voted against the purchase, stating he was concerned with the impact it would have on traffic along Highway 90, while Commissioner Jim Williamson was absent.

“My only objection to the Highway 90 site is the capacity of the road,” Melvin said.

“The real estate itself is not my problem... The tiebreaker for me is the traffic concurrence,” he said.

The property, owned by Charter Bank, has an asking price of $1.41 million.

County officials will sign a purchase agreement for the land, but won’t close the sale unless the public approves a sales tax referendum to fund the construction of the judicial center during the August primaries.

The contract has a lengthy due diligence period for the county to conduct their own studies to make sure there are no issues with the land, said County Attorney Angie Jones.

The proposed judicial center has an estimated cost of $32 million to $37 million. Funding is expected to come from a dedicated sales tax voters will have to approve in a referendum later this year.

Commissioners were initially only interested in a 10-acre parcel inside the larger 45-acre site. However, they opted to purchase additional land to give the county control over how the land in front of the proposed judicial center would be developed going forward, as well as provide the county with additional land to expand the judicial center in the future.

“We would be very shortsighted if commissioners sitting here 25 years from now were trying to decide where to put something else,” said Commissioner Don Salter.

Commissioner Bob Cole asked the county staff to start developing a page dedicated to the judicial center on the county’s website including answers to frequently asked questions, design layouts, information on the proposed sales tax and how long it would need to be in place and other topics to help educate the public.

“We have to keep this moving forward,” Cole said. “It’s direly needed in our community to develop this... Let’s not kill this project before it gets started. Let’s work as a community to answer the questions and move forward.”