After several years of uncertainty and negotiations, progress is finally underway on two large developments of land that were formerly part of the Tiger Point Golf Course in Gulf Breeze, drawing concern from nearby residents who say the infrastructure isn't yet up to snuff to support such heavy development.
The projects — an apartment complex and a new school — have been discussed and debated in the community for at least the past two years. Now, site clearing has begun for the apartments, and the school district is moving in on finally closing a deal of its own.
The first of the two projects, a 222-unit apartment complex named Azalea Bay Apartments, has already started site clearing and demolition. The complex will be located on a 20-acre property on U.S. 98 that was formerly St. Sylvester's Catholic Church.
The church hasn't occupied the building in several years, and the building is being demolished to make way for the apartments.
The developer for the project, Joe Liebold of GB Parkway Exchange LLC, also purchased the 13-acre driving range that was part of the Tiger Point Golf Course. The range is located adjacent to the apartments and is planned to be partially used for the apartment's stormwater retention pond.
The driving range property isn't zoned for a stormwater pond, and the developer will have to go before the county for master plan approval.
Representatives for GB Parkway Exchange LLC did not return the News Journal's request for comments about the project on Friday.
The second project, a new school for the Santa Rosa County School District, has been in the works since at least 2018. The city of Gulf Breeze approved selling 45 acres on the west course to the school district for $1.9 million in November 2018 and the school board has agreed to purchase it, but the sale won't be finalized until the county rules on a zoning variance request by the school district.
The request is for the Board of County Commissioners to approve a conditional use permit for a school to operate on the property. The final judgment will be issued by the BOCC at its March 26 meeting.
The development of the two properties underscores the county's soaring population and demand for housing, which is subsequently prompting the need for new schools to accommodate the population growth.
The school district has recently approved purchasing land in Navarre and Milton to build new schools, and is currently building a new school, East Bay K-8, on Elkhart Drive in Navarre.
But the developments are also raising even more concerns in the south end of the county, where development is happening at a breakneck pace and residents are wary of the impacts to their properties.
Rod Miller, who represents the Santa Rosa Shores Homeowner's Association, said residents in his Tiger Point neighborhood are concerned about the developments because of the increased traffic and the strain on the already heavily burdened infrastructure.
Miller said residents are mostly concerned about increased flooding in an area that already experiences flooding several times a year. They want to ensure any drainage ponds are properly maintained and they don't want traffic to be able to enter and exit through the old driving range.
“There are many unanswered questions,” he said.
Liz Pavelick, who lives off Soundside Drive, said she's worried the infrastructure won't be able to handle hundreds of new cars that will come with the new apartment complex and the untold number of cars and school buses that will accompany a new school.
“The developments are just increasing everything, they’re multiplying all of these issues,” Pavelick said. “The woes of overdevelopment are impacting everything. They’re spreading like a cancer.”
Annie Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8632.