VERNON - Progress is being made for The Preserve at Holmes Creek, a planned housing and market RV park development projected to bring about 481 housing units to the Vernon area over the next two decades.

The Washington County Planning Commission approved on Tuesday a large-scale land use change for the project site, which lies in the area of State Road 79 and Pate Pond Road. Currently, the 156.63-acre area is made of up commercial, agricultural, conservation, and low density residential land classifications.

The project will require separate Washington County development orders on five separate parcels, with state and federal permits being obtained for each use of the project and wetland delineation being performed as work begins in each new area.

The land use amendment would change a 72.82 tract of land to low/medium density residential for housing lots; a 9.21 tract to commercial for storage units; a 11.13 tract to high density residential for apartments; bring an additional 2.75 acres to join with an existing 8.90 acre commercial tract for restaurants and a gas station; and change a 51.81 tract to commercial for the RV park.

The project's timeline calls for the development of a storage area from 2017 to 2018 with wetlands mitigation permitting taking place from 2018 to 2020 for the RV Park, and convenience store, which would be located where SR 79 and Pate Pond Road meet.

Work will begin in 2020 on an expanded convenience store that will feature a fast food restaurant area and fueling station. This stage will run into 2021, at which time the next sequence would get underway, bringing the development of the RV park with 100 initial spaces. The RV park has the ultimate capacity to accommodate 200 spaces and support buildings.

From 2025 to 2035, a subdivision will be developed with about 259 single-family lots, with 222 multi-family apartments/condos getting underway between 2030 and 2032.

The project developer and owner is Washington Square Holding Corporation, represented Commercial Property Investments of Chipley.

Vernon City Council members heard the presentation in a February special meeting, as the City of Vernon would play a vital role in the project, providing a joint water and sewer service and annexing the site into the city limits.

Washington Square Holding Corporation estimates that once the development is fully up and running, it would generate an additional $1.43 million a year in Ad Valorem revenue within Washington County.

Specifically, estimates predict $713,745 in Ad Valorem going to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners, $535,353 going to the Washington County School Board, and $186, 369 going to the City of Vernon.

Ultimately, developers project an economic impact of about $32.1 million and a population increase of about 1,052, based on a 90 percent occupancy rate equaling 433 households.

Now that the land use change has gained a recommendation from the Planning Commission to be transmitted to the state, it must gain approval from the Washington County Board of Commissioners before it can be transmitted to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for approval.

DEO will then have 30 days to review the change, during which time about nine other state agencies will have the opportunity to review and give input on the proposal.

If approved, the first stages of development will get underway this October.