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Why Incorporation? A Better South Walton Responds

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By Julie Cumby

 

South Walton is a gorgeous 26-mile stretch of coastal paradise that more than 23,000 people are proud to call home. We are surrounded by the sugar white sands and clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, rare coastal dune lakes, untouched natural beauty of neighboring state parks and bays, and the distinctive character of the friendly local towns that immediately feel like home. It is a beautiful place to visit and an even more spectacular place to call home.

 

A Better South Walton (ABSW) is a group of citizens devoting their time and energy to exploring ideas to improve South Walton’s future as its population, number of visitors businesses grow. Their mission is to seek more effective governance and local representation for South Walton and to preserve and enhance its unique character and way of life. Thanks to a supportive local community, ABSW has spent the last 19 months researching incorporation and the impact it would have on South Walton’s residents and visitors.

 

Why incorporation? Because our community is growing quickly without proper management and direction. We have no long-term planning in place to deal with this growth, and as residents and guests, we care too deeply about this beautiful place to let it succumb to overdevelopment as a result of poor planning.

 

Incorporation would give South Walton the right to elect a local government focused solely on serving this community’s best interests. It would give residents and local homeowners the opportunity to have a stronger voice in the leadership, operational management and long term planning of South Walton. Never before in the coastal counties of the Florida panhandle has a municipality incorporated with such a large population base.

 

ABSW has worked closely with an experienced team of consultants to determine the feasibility of incorporating South Walton, define the benefits it would bring to our community and build a strategic action plan to execute this initiative. A feasibility study was conducted, and its results concluded that South Walton is a viable candidate for incorporation.

 

The results include a conceptual five-year operational plan for a municipal government based on data collected for the study. The actual plan will be decided by South Walton’s first municipal council, elected by the voting citizens in fall 2017. The feasibility study cited our significant population and our substantial tax base as strong drivers in this conclusion.

 

Why now? The majority of Gulf Coast residents and guests can point to an area and recall a time when it was quieter, more local and less developed. If left unchecked, South Walton could suffer the same fate. Never before has such a large community experienced such rapid growth without a plan for the future. There has never been a more critical time for change in South Walton—let’s make that change positive.

 

On Aug. 25, ABSW will be hosting a town hall meeting (see Events listing) to discuss the recently released charter summary and the latest revisions to the feasibility study. Getting the community’s feedback has never been more important, as it is your feedback that will determine what goes into the final documentation for incorporation.

 

We ask that you make it a priority to attend and learn more about the details of incorporation, how it affects the residents of South Walton and voice your opinions on what matters most in this process.

 

For more information on ABSW, the process of incorporation and how you can get involved by signing the petition, making a donation or volunteering your time or talent, please visit www.ABetterSouthWalton.org.

 

Together let’s make A Better South Walton.

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