City, developer discuss progress, roadblocks of workforce housing project
Developers for Port St. Joe’s workforce housing project attended the city’s August 16 meeting to discuss progress for the first time since they were selected for the project in late 2021.
“We’ve been doing a lot of the due diligence that’s required… and now we’re at a point where we’re kind of stuck until we figure out the road situation.” said Michael Snodgrass, the president of OIKOS Development, the Kansas City based company selected for the contract.
The housing project, which will be located off of Tenth Street behind the Gulf County Public Works complex, intends to address employers’ struggles to fill lower-paying positions by making the cost of housing in Gulf County more attainable.
Snodgrass presented three possible locations for entrances into the development.
“Our option A is to come along the Public Works, which is about a 60 foot right of way, into the site,” he said. “Option B would have been to go up Tenth Street, down the railroad and back in. And then Option C would be to come through public works.”
“No one seems to want Option C to happen, so at this time, we’re pushing really hard for options A and B.”
Snodgrass informed the city commissioners that progress had been stalled due to a lack of consensus between the development company and Duke Energy over where the entrances and exits for the new community will be.
According to Snodgrass, OIKOS had reached out to Duke Energy about the possibility of an easement for the road running by the energy company’s Port St. Joe location.
“At this time Duke Energy was not very willing to discuss an easement,” Snodgrass said. “I think we need some help from the city to move this forward.”
Commissioners agreed to send a letter to Duke Energy to try to get the company to work with them on forming a solution, though no formal motion was made to this effect. Mayor Rex Buzzett pointed out that he believed the road was actually city property.
“As it turns out from my conversation with (City Manager) Jim (Anderson), we actually own that road,” the mayor said. “We need to try to work with Duke to convince them that we can do what we want to do, but we’re willing to work with them.”
But some commissioners voiced their hesitations with moving forward with the planning process without taking what they consider to be proper consideration for the amount of traffic that will be brought to the area.
Increased traffic was one of the community’s most frequently voiced concerns when the city was considering contractors for the project late last year.
“There’s going to be more houses built that have no idea of what we’re discussing today, and I’m going to be steadfast in looking out for those neighborhoods and those people that live in homes that would not have built there if they knew the amount of traffic that was going to be coming from and going to the development we’re discussing,” said Commissioner Scott Hoffman.
I will oppose it adamantly if it’s going to be based just on the cost versus doing it correctly so we don’t get that negative impact on the people living there today.”
Snodgrass recommended that the city move forward with fostering conversations with Duke so that OIKOS could continue with design processes, emphasizing that this would give the development company time to engineer the most effective route for minimizing traffic.
“It would be ideal if we had two ways in and out to be honest, so maybe one of the short term goals can be getting that easement over so we can get started. And then the medium term can be working with the department of transportation on the extension of that road and working on the funding,” he said.
Commissioners approve third plat for Palmetto Bluff development
The commissioners also unanimously voted to approve the plat for the third phase of construction of the Palmetto Bluff development on Tuesday, with Brett Lowry abstaining for a conflict of interest due to a “business relationship.”
The development, which Ralph Rish, who is involved in the development, said will be completed in four or five phases, will total 109 units. Construction for the first two phases is already underway.
Phase 3, named “The Cove,” will be located off of Long Avenue. There are 27 available lots on the road.
Water and sewer have already been installed in the area, and drainage and paving processes are already underway.
The city’s plat approval is contingent upon these necessary elements being completed to sit and state standards.
“It sounds like a good plan, and we’re excited about the growth,” Buzzett said shortly before the motion was made and passed.