The Washington County Planning Commission held a workshop Thursday, May 15, to help provide a better understanding of how local planning agencies work. The audience, comprised primarily of local real estate professionals, heard presentations from local real estate broker Jim Towns, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Regional Planning Administrator Sherry Spiers, and county attorney Jeff Goodman on topics ranging from the history of land use planning to the importance of adherence to Florida Sunshine Laws by local agencies.
Towns also commended current planning commission members for their efforts to bring the county's more than 1,100 misclassified land parcels into compliance.
"The current commission was not in office in '85 and '91 when a lot of these problems were created," said Towns. " Our desire is not to criticize the county but to work with them." The nonconforming tracts are expected to be updated by the end of the year, and the updates will not affect property taxes
Towns also stated the commission's current challenge stems from the fact the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) hasn't been updated to keep up with the county as its economic development has evolved.
"Not having a current FLUM really complicates the nonconforming issue," said Towns. "The best way to defend this county is to set the standard for developers wanting to come in."
County Attorney Jeff Goodman also expressed the importance of the planning commission's role in the county's economic future, stressing the commission ideally reflects the pride and diverse opinions of their constituents.
"The Planning Commission should promote, coordinate and facilitate the involvement of all people in the long range planning and vision for our community to improve economic development, quality of life and provide value services,” said Goodman. “The primary purpose of the Washington County Planning Commission is to make thought out and informed recommendations to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners. The Planning Commission should be viewed as the experts who vet out planning matters on behalf of the (commissioners).”
"What we do today will affect the future of our kids and grandkids," he added. "When I look at my children, I want them to have something to come back to."
The planning commission meets again in regular session at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 3.