This page details OILA's position on issues affecting Okaloosa Island.
Large sections of Okaloosa Island are owned by the Air Force. Specifically, Site A-5 and Dunes Point. Site A-5 is the large undeveloped lot located next to the
Gulfarium and the Dunes Point parcel is the undeveloped beach property between Newman Bracken Wayside Park and the Destin bridge. Recent events
indicated that the Air Force was considering a sale/trade arrangement for this property with private parties. Nothing transacted, but it caught the attention of the public that sometime in the future this land may become surplus to the
It is the position of the Association that if this property is released by the Air
Force that it be offered to the Department of the Interior for inclusion in the Gulf Island National Seashore. A letter was sent by the Association to the Board of County Commissioners advising them of this position. Also, on October 17 U.S. Congressman Jeff Miller introduced legislation that transfers any Department of Defense property that is declared surplus on Santa Rosa Island and Okaloosa Island to the Gulf Island National Seashore. The Association has sent a letter to Congressman Miller stating our support for this legislation and expressing our
gratitude to him for taking the initiative on this issue.
In April 2003 a Fort Walton Beach Council member suggested the possibility of annexing Okaloosa Island into the City of Fort Walton Beach. This suggestion was followed by a survey letter in July 2004 from the City of Fort Walton Beach to Island property owners inquiring as to their interest in being annexed.
The Association is opposed to the Island being annexed by the City of Fort Walton Beach. This action would only add another layer of taxation with no gain in or
improvement over existing services. In April 2003, the Association wrote a letter to the Fort Walton Beach Council member who had expressed an
interest in annexing the Island and informed him of our opposition. In July 2004 the Association sent a letter (in reaction to the survey) to the Fort Walton Beach City Manager affirming our continued opposition to annexation. At this time the issue appears to be moot and there have been no further actions taken by the City of Fort Walton Beach.
The Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council (TDC) is leading an effort to restore sand to eroded beaches on Okaloosa Island.
The Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association continues to support it’s original position opposing the formation of an MSBU to finance the beach renourishment on Okaloosa Island and recommends using the existing Parks MSTU as a source of revenue.
OILA supports County Ordinance 04-05 entitled “County Recreation Area” and requests that this ordinance be enforced as set forth in this document.
The Emerald Coast Bridge Authority which was created in 2001 by the Florida Legislature was given the mission to, …increase the level of service on the main corridors through the greater Fort Walton Beach area and Okaloosa Island by planning, constructing, operating and maintaining a bridge/tunnel or bridges/tunnels traversing Choctawhatchee Bay and/or Santa Rosa Sound or both.
In short, no bridge to Okaloosa Island west of the current Brooks Bridge.
The Association is on record as …opposing any bridge connecting to Okaloosa Island from the Brooks Bridge westward to Navarre… The Association wrote a letter in October 2002 to the members of the Emerald Coast Bridge Authority (ECBA) informing them of our opposition to any bridge alignment which would connect Highway 98 to Santa Rosa Blvd west of the Brooks Bridge. Also, we provided notices of meetings of the ECBA in the OIL Lantern and encourage members to attend their monthly meetings. Presently the ECBA has reduced the possible alignment of the bridge to three corridors. However, one of the remaining corridors, the Wright Parkway alignment, would connect a bridge from Highway 98 to the west end of Santa Rosa Blvd. This alignment would turn Santa Rosa Blvd into a major traffic by pass loop off of Highway 98.
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) is proposing to the Board of County
Commissioners that 2 to 3 acres of Block 14 be leased to them so they can relocate their facilities from Mountain Drive in Destin to the park area of Block 14 on Okaloosa Island. Amanda Wilkinson from ECWR said that the County is proposing about a 4-acre part that will have access to Highway 98 and to Choctawhatchee Bay. She said that she will be asking the County to lease park land to ECWR at the next BCC meeting (Dec 2009). She also talked about various fund-raising activities that ECWR conducts since they are a non-profit, non-funded entity, but the only licensed wildlife refuge in the area.
OILA supports the proposal. An OILA representative has attended a BCC meeting to express OILA’s support.
This is a County and DCA issue and not an Okaloosa Island Covenant issue.
Block 14 is the location of the Island Golf Center.
Developers have recently approached the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) concerning possible commercial development (condos, retail) of this property. The present lease on the property expires on May 28, 2009. The County Attorney advised the BCC that in his opinion they had the authority to change the zoning of the property. To date no action has been taken by the BCC.
(2008) OILA supports the “Parks Dedication Resolution” and the OILA Board finds no objection to the Parks Advisory Committees Plan present and approved at their meeting on Sept 27, 2006. OILA does object to building hotels and condominium in this dedicated public park.
(2005) The Association supports retaining the B-4, Public Parks, land use classification for Lot 14 and opposes any change to this classification. The Association approved the following resolution: The Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association objects to any change in the area zone map on Okaloosa Island as described in the protective covenants and restrictions. Part F of these covenants describes zone B-4 parks, beaches, and freeway area. This has been designated as public property and is to be used only in the following ways as listed in the protective covenants and restrictions: (1) parks (2) playgrounds (3) boat basins and facilities. Also, it is the position of the Association that the language of April 11, 1963 Park Dedication Resolution by the Okaloosa Island Authority which designated Lot 14 for recreational use only was very clear when it stated, “This dedication of the above described property is and shall be irrevocable…” The Association has communicated our position to the BCC and also have retained legal counsel to represent our position on this matter.
(2012) At the June 19, 2012 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners there was a discussion, and voting, on two Island Block 14 proposals.
"The Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association (OILA) supports the approval of the Wild Willy's contract in Block 14 along with the continued support of Horizons. OILA requests that the BCC reject the bid by AquaGreen for the 4.4 acres and request new RFPs at a later date. We do not feel that the BCC did its due diligence on this proposal."
The Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association does not support the AquaGreen project at the park area on the Island. A fish hatchery and marine science center are not recreational uses of our county’s irreplaceable park and. OILA also questions whether our County Commissioners have performed due diligence concerning the marketing of this valuable Okaloosa County asset and the financial resources and business plan of AquaGreen.
Further concerns are about the scope of the effect on our bay, the coastal dune lake on the property, parking overflow, Highway 98 congestion and pumping water in/out of the bay for the hatchery. After review of the AquaGreen proposal to the County Commissioners, it appears this group desires to expand aquaculture use of Choctawahatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. How do we in Okaloosa County control the effects of offshore farming, when we can not even prevent one ugly advertising sign blemishing the beauty of our shoreline? Who does the water in the Bay belong to? Aquaculture proposes fish cages, concrete fish tanks, tents and buildings for aquatic plant production, pumping water in/out of the bay for fish hatcheries. All of this presents further problems. Where does farmed fish excrement go? If filtered through aquatic plants would some of this “liquid nutrient” make its way into our aquifers? Do we want caged fish excrement flowing to Crab Island or Marler Park? How will the industrial side of aqua farming affect the real estate value of residential water front property? If that value decreases so does the County tax base and we all lose. Do tourist want to gaze at steel fish cages across their balcony view?
Okaloosa Island is a barrier island. In nature its job is to help protect the mainland and we in turn need to help protect this beautiful Island area. This park land is a rare and valuable asset to Okaloosa County and should be protected and enjoyed by all citizens. More concrete with a lease rewarded to a group headed by Mr. Barcus and Mr. Winkeler (who have no experience in what they are proposing and questionable financing) is not the best use of recreational park land. If AquaGreen were rewarded a BP grant, what happens when those funds are gone? Is this commercial group competing for grants and funding with our Florida (taxpayer supported) University programs?
One of the AquaGreen supporters is Dr. Benetti, with the University of Miami, a private college, not one of Florida’s Public Universities. Is this project more appropriate for state or federal land and management by a Public University, not a developer (Mr. Winkler) and an ice cream store owner (Mr. Barcus)?
Is a legal notice published among multiple foreclosure notices really optimum advertising? To only have two companies (both related to Mr. Barcus) respond to the RFP is of grave concern. With the downturn in the economy, maybe now is not the best time to lease this land. If this land was advertised professionally by a licensed realtor ormarketing agency who used nation wide or world wide marketing and advertising resources, would the response have been greater? Why are our County Commissioners in such a hurry to lease this land? What is the sudden urgency? Why not more aggressive marketing?
OILA is working with the county to re-landscape and maintain these areas.
OILA’s goal is to have the properties in need of repair or maintenance be brought into compliance with the Covenants and Restrictions. OILA has hired a private attorney to get movement on this issue. See the Complaint page to report a property not in compliance.
Paragraph B., Area of Application, of the Island’s Protective Covenants and Restrictions states:
“…No individual lot can be subdivided or combined in groups with other lots, even if they otherwise meet all requirements of the Protective Covenants without special approval of Okaloosa County.”
Under this rule, any lot subdivision and/or the combining of lots must be approved by the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners.
The Association is opposed to the subdividing of lots in the B-1 zone ( Private
Residential) on the Island. The Association approved the following resolution at the general membership meeting on Oct 10, 2005:
“The Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association objects to the subdividing of any lots in the B-1 area on Okaloosa Island.”
This resolution was sent to all of the Okaloosa County Commissioners
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