Walton County is one of the fastest growing regions in Florida. Its unique urban, exurban, and agricultural environments from the Gulf of Mexico north to the Georgia border require different planning approaches in each of these areas to successfully preserve and enhance the County’s distinct character and assets while fostering growth and development. The Comprehensive Plan had been updated piecemeal over time, with some new regulations in the policy document, while the County’s land development code and zoning districts remained inadequate for managing growth.
Matrix updated the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code (LDC) to eliminate inconsistencies and redundancies, revise goals and policies in compliance with the latest statutory requirements, and ensure the Plan and LDC were consistent, user-friendly, and functional.
Matrix conducted audits to ensure the Plan promoted the County’s vision for integrated town and village development concepts, to relocate regulations from the Plan to the LDC in a restructured format that facilitates ease of use and administration, and to clarify and address inconsistencies across the different LDC chapters. The LDC update included a wholesale rewrite, with new zoning districts and permitted uses; revised development review processes, parking standards, development standards, hazardous area development standards, and regulations for wildlife habitat, fences, signage, and landscaping; and enhanced coastal and shoreline protection standards, water conservation requirements, and floodplain protection requirements.
Matrix employed a phased and tailored public engagement strategy involving stakeholder working groups and interviews; public open houses; meetings with community groups, developers, the military and appointed and elected officials; and online methods to obtain meaningful input from the urban and rural regions where unique policies and regulations were required.
The updates were unanimously adopted by the County Commission in several phases to ensure transparency and thorough public review. The Comprehensive Plan was subsequently reviewed by Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity and found in compliance with State requirements.