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Article: Group moving forward with South Walton incorporation … in 2018

Saying it wants to “give residents of South Walton a new, transparent view of a forward-looking vision for our community” a group in favor of making South Walton its own town, says the work is moving forward, albeit delayed.

It had hoped to move forward with a vote on incorporation during the 2017 legislative session, but instead will look to hold a vote in 2018.

In a press release Tuesday, A Better South Walton says it has held more than a dozen public town hall meetings and charter workshops in the last two years, along with more than 25 smaller meetings with various community groups.

The group says “89% of the ad valorem tax revenue that provides financial stability to Walton County is generated in South Walton. Our growing community presents unique challenges that require the community to consider new ideas.”

To read more, click to go to wjhg.com.

Press Release: ABSW to Pursue Right to Vote on Incorporation during 2018 Legislation Session

February 13, 2018 – ABSW continues work to explore ideas for more effective and responsive governance as South Walton grows. Our primary goal is to give the residents of South Walton a new, transparent view of a forward-looking vision for our community.

South Walton is an amazing place with a distinctive character and charm that draws over 3 million visitors per year and whose permanent resident base increases annually. Our growing community presents unique challenges that require the community to consider new ideas.

Through the support of our many volunteers and donors, over the past two years ABSW has held 13 public town hall meetings and charter workshops along with over 25 smaller meetings with various organizations and community groups. Numerous discussions were held with state and local elected officials and staff. We’re proud to have developed a feasibility study and charter showing that if the voters of South Walton want to bring decision making closer to home, it can be done.

With the incorporation of the Town of South Walton becoming a mainstream idea, our residents continue to share ideas as they envision life with local leadership. This important decision for our community requires ongoing close examination and critical reflection as the opportunities, benefits and risks are further considered. In the coming months ABSW will continue to work with our state and local representatives to come together for a better South Walton. We are planning a series of community forums including experts from others cities that will help us all understand our choice. The schedule will be announced soon. ABSW will continue to strive to bring the most current information to our community as we gain new insights from meetings and discussions with our residents, the county, the state and other municipalities.

ABSW will always represent South Walton as this special community demands, with open ears and an open mind. As always, we welcome your ideas and appreciate your support as we forge a new vision for this place we all love and call South Walton.

Article: Incorporation movement forges forward

The group A Better South Walton held another informational meeting Monday night to present their proposal of incorporation for South Walton and to answer any questions the public might have about the matter, but only a handful of people showed up and even fewer asked questions.

ABSW has now held at least five advertised public town hall-style workshops to inform the public of their reasons and their journey through this process. Some have been well attended, particularly those held on the east end.

“We also had three very productive separate charter workshops that were extremely well attended,” said ABSW President and Attorney David Pleat. “We have also had dozens of meetings with various associations, neighborhoods, service organizations and a large meeting of the Sandestin Owners’ Association Advisory Board Association presidents.”

The group has also individually and sometimes in small groups met with individuals for lunch or meetings to educate and answer questions.

Continue reading at The Walton Sun.

Events: A Better South Walton Holds Town Hall Meetings To Answer Residents’ Questions

A Better South Walton (ABSW) will be holding two town hall meetings to educate and engage the local community in discussions surrounding incorporation. The meetings will be held in Miramar Beach on November 14th and 17th at 5:30 PM.

The town hall meetings, which are free and open to the public, are designed for members of the community to ask questions and get a better understanding of incorporation and what benefits it would bring to the residents of South Walton. Questions about taxation, municipal organization and the long term goals of an incorporated South Walton will all be addressed. The process for incorporation will also be explained. Every resident of the South Walton community is welcome and encouraged to attend.

“We’ve seen the substantial growth of South Walton and it is the community’s responsibility to take control of its future,” states David Pleat, president of A Better South Walton. “We need to get your feedback, answer your questions and better educate our community on why this issue is so important to the long term sustainability of South Walton. Please join us for one of these upcoming meetings and make your voice heard.”

The meetings will be held:

Monday, November 14th 
5:30 PM
Destiny Worship Center
122 Poinciana Blvd.
Miramar Beach, FL

Thursday, November 17th   
5:30 PM
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Linkside Conference Center, Bayside Ballroom G & H
158 Sandestin Blvd. North

Miramar Beach, FL

With the election just days away, it has never been more important to get petition signatures! Whether Brad Drake or Jamey Westbrook will be representing District 5, signatures are needed to show the community’s support of the incorporation initiative.

Have you signed the petition yet?

Lend your support to the ABSW effort, please take 20 seconds to sign the online petition requesting the right to vote on the issue of incorporation.

In addition to our petition drive and upcoming town hall meetings, ABSW board members have been busy as of late speaking with several community groups including the South Walton Rotary, the Ladies of Watersound Origins, Sunrise Beach HOA and Draper Lake HOA. We are a visible presence at every Rosemary Beach Farmer’s Market, Seaside Farmer’s Market, South Walton Annex meeting as well as early voting.

For more information on ABSW and how you can get involved by volunteering, signing the petition or making a donation, please visit A Better South Walton or email ABSW.

Article: South Walton group finalizes would-be city’s charter

A Better South Walton has put finishing touches on a charter for the new Florida city it wants to see created.

The group’s next move is to present its plans to the state representative for House District 5 and ask him to introduce and advocate for passage of a local bill allowing South Walton voters to make the final decision on incorporation.

“He’s the gatekeeper. It all comes down to one guy,” said David Pleat, the president of A Better South Walton.

State Rep. Brad Drake of DeFuniak Springs, the Republican incumbent, faces no-party affiliated candidate Jamey Westbrook in the Nov. 8 election. The winner will be District 5’s representative on the issue.

Pleat said A Better South Walton will wait until after the election to turn over its bill for incorporation.

Continue reading at nwfdailynews.com

A Better South Walton Sends Finalized Charter to Florida State Legislature

SANTA ROSA BEACH, FL – October 10, 2016 – A Better South Walton (ABSW) is pleased to announce the next stage of incorporation has begun with the submission of the completed charter to the Florida State Legislature.

Creation of the charter began several months ago as part of the overall decision to explore solutions for the rapid expansion of South Walton. After a comprehensive feasibility study identified the area as a prime candidate for incorporation, the charter was drafted as a next step in determining the framework for the proposed new government.

Multiple charter workshops were held in recent months to gather feedback from the community and incorporate key ideas into the draft charter for inclusion in the full version. Several key components of the charter were updated to include residents’ ideas for improvement, such as:

  • Creating term limits for council members of two consecutive terms
  • Modifying the vice mayor’s term to two years
  • Defining the replacement process for council members who move out of their district prior to their term’s end
  • Modifying the required Council vote needed to levy a municipal ad valorem tax to require a supermajority vote to levy or increase an ad valorem tax rather than to levy or change an ad valorem tax
  • Limiting maximum municipal ad valorem taxes to 2.5 mills
  • Requiring a run off election if no council candidate receives a majority vote for a particular seat during regular elections
  • Allowing council members to increase their salaries, but restricting these changes to take effect two years after the next council election

With the charter and its submission complete, the next step on the path to incorporation is the creation and filing of a local bill containing the charter into the legislative process by South Walton’s State Representative. This local bill will include a request for a local vote by the residents of South Walton on whether or not to incorporate.

“The suggestions made by the residents of South Walton have greatly strengthened the charter and made pivotal improvements to the proposed governing framework,” states David Pleat, president of A Better South Walton. “We are proud of our neighbors’ commitment to bettering South Walton and their support in preserving and sustaining our unique way of life.”

For complete details on the full charter and a summary of its key elements, both documents may be accessed on the ABSW website.

To lend your support to the ABSW effort, please take 20 seconds to sign the online petition requesting the right to vote on the issue of incorporation.

For additional information on how you can volunteer or make a donation, please visit A Better South Walton or email ABSW.

About A Better South Walton:

A Better South Walton (ABSW) is made up of a diverse group of citizen volunteers who share a commitment to bettering South Walton. ABSW’s mission is to seek more effective governance and local representation for South Walton through incorporation to preserve and enhance the area’s unique character, property values and quality of life.

Creating A Better South Walton

by Julie Cumby for the Rosemary Thymes

The stunning color of the Gulf of Mexico, the pristine white sand beaches, the untouched natural beauty of the state parks and coastal dune lakes, the distinctive character of friendly towns that immediately feel like home – this is South Walton, the community stretching from the Gulf to Choctawhatchee Bay and from Miramar Beach to Inlet Beach. South Walton is a one-of-a-kind destination, more popular now than ever before and experiencing record growth. With this rapid growth that shows no signs of stopping, comes challenges that must be addressed for the long-term preservation and protection of our exceptional community.

A Better South Walton (ABSW) is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to seeking more effective governance and local representation. Focused on preserving and protecting the South Walton community and its unique way of life, ABSW has spent the last 19 months researching incorporation and the impact it would have on South Walton’s residents and visitors.

What would incorporation mean? As a resident of South Walton, it would mean having a stronger say in the decisions that affect our beautiful community and its future growth. As a visitor, it would mean seeing a more active, more local government dedicated to improving an already gorgeous area that ABSW is determined to preserve. Decisions relating to infrastructure, development, long-term planning and traffic alleviation are all pivotal topics that would be addressed by a board of local representatives.

Why is this important? If left on its current course, the growth of South Walton will exceed our ability to control it. Because there has never been a local governing body dedicated solely to South Walton, there are no long-term plans to handle the growth we are experiencing both from visiting guests and an influx of new residents. There has never been a more critical time for change in the community of South Walton.

ABSW has worked closely with an extremely skilled 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 (over 23,000 estimated residents) and our fiscally strong tax base as strong drivers in this conclusion.

With the feasibility study complete, ABSW set to work drafting a charter summary that would provide the framework for the incorporated municipality of South Walton. Now complete, the charter summary outlines how the governing body will be structured and will include the proposed name for the municipality based on community feedback.

As with every step in this process, community feedback is actively encouraged and elicited. The ABSW initiative is aimed at bringing a stronger voice to the people, so community meetings have been held periodically over the past 19 months to engage residents in this process, answer their questions and gather their feedback. A series of community meetings were held to correspond with the completion of both the feasibility study and the charter summary.

The next step of the incorporation process is the petition. Petition signatures are needed, stating that we, the South Walton community, would like the right to vote on whether or not to incorporate. This is an important classification as this is not a statement of support for incorporation; it is a statement of support for the South Walton community’s opportunity to vote on the issue of incorporation.

ABSW will submit the feasibility study and draft charter to the Florida State Legislature, and petition signatures requesting the right to vote on incorporation in 2017 to our local State Representative. We must show our local State Representative, who will present this request to the legislature on South Walton’s behalf during the 2017 legislative session, that local government and more effective, responsive governance is needed to make South Walton a better community for guests and residents.

Your help is needed to make this happen. Please take a moment to visit www.ABetterSouthWalton.org to learn more about this initiative, research the available documentation and take action by signing the petition, making a donation, or volunteering your time or talent.

Together we can make A Better South Walton.

Article: Could South Walton Incorporate?

Local organization hopes for more effective governance and local representation

 
By Julie Kerwin Cumby, printed in theseasidetimes.com

The beauty and enviable lifestyle of Seaside, 30A and South Walton has been attracting residents and visitors to our area for decades. This area continues to grow in popularity. And with it, the need to direct, plan and manage this growth has never been greater.

A Better South Walton (ABSW) is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to seeking more effective governance and local representation. Focused on preserving and protecting the South Walton community and its unique way of life, ABSW has spent the last 19 months researching incorporation and the impact it would have on South Walton’s residents and visitors.

Working closely with a team of consultants, ABSW commissioned a feasibility study that concluded that South Walton is a viable candidate for incorporation. The feasibility study cited our significant population (more than 23,000 estimated residents) and our fiscally strong tax base as strong drivers in this conclusion.

ABSW then drafted a charter summary providing the framework for the incorporated municipality of South Walton. Now complete, the charter summary outlines how the governing body would be structured and includes the proposed name for the municipality based on community feedback.

Once finalized, the charter and feasibility study will be presented to the District 5 state representative in early September 2016.

With every major development in the incorporation process, public meetings are held to inform the South Walton community and engage them in discussions regarding the proposed municipality. The most recent round of town hall meetings presented the key charter provisions and asked for the community’s suggestions for the final version of the charter.

A survey asking South Walton residents for their opinion on a possible name for the proposed municipality was recently conducted online. The survey results and the public’s feedback on the name were considered for inclusion in the final version of the charter.

ABSW encourages everyone to review the completed feasibility study and charter summary and educate themselves on the incorporation process and what it would mean for South Walton.

For more information on ABSW, the incorporation process and how you can get involved by signing the petition, making a donation or volunteering, visit abettersouthwalton.org.

Julie Kerwin Cumby is a marketing communications professional and vice chair of the public relations and marketing committee for A Better South Walton

A Better South Walton Announces New Location of Town Charter Public Workshop

SEPTEMBER 16, 2016 — A Better South Walton (ABSW), a volunteer organization dedicated to seeking more effective governance and local representation for South Walton, announces a new location for one of its charter workshops, designed to gather community feedback on the recently released charter summary and its impact on the proposed municipality of South Walton. The location for this workshop has changed and will now be held at the Foster Gallery at the Market Shops, located next to Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach.

The charter workshops will be held:

Thursday, September 22nd
5:30 – 7:30 PM
Rosemary Beach Town Hall
S. Barrett Square
Rosemary Beach, FL

Saturday, September 24th
10:00 AM – Noon
The Foster Gallery at The Market Shops
9375 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Suite 30
Miramar Beach, FL
(Next to DIG eatery and Ben & Jerry’s)

To gain a deeper understanding of the charter summary, it can be found in its entirety on the ABSW website.

For more information on ABSW and how you can get involved by signing the petition requesting the opportunity to vote on becoming a town, volunteering, or making a donation, please visit A Better South Walton or email ABSW.

About A Better South Walton:

A Better South Walton (ABSW) is made up of a diverse group of citizen volunteers who share a concern about the future of South Walton. The mission of ABSW is to seek more effective governance and local representation for South Walton to preserve and enhance its unique character, property values and quality of life.

The focus of ABSW is thoughtful analysis and discussion regarding ideas for more effective local governance and therefore, the future of South Walton. ABSW will also work to encourage the citizens of South Walton to weigh in formally and have a say in determining how South
Walton will be managed going forward.

Article: Meeting indicates continued interest in a city south of the bay

Rosemary Beach – About 150 people were in attendance at Rosemary Beach Town Hall on Aug. 23 for an update on efforts by the volunteer group A Better South Walton (ABSW) toward providing residents south of the bay with an option for a city government.

Several members of the volunteer group addressed attendees, took input and answered questions.

ABSW President David Pleat encouraged citizens to sign petitions in favor of residents having a vote on the creation of a new municipality in the area south of the bay.

Pleat discussed a charter summary recently completed through the group’s efforts. The document details the structure and other aspects of the government of the incorporated area. As part of the charter summary, a name for the municipality has been selected, the Town of South Walton, Florida.

Pleat revealed that, per the charter summary, the town government would be in the council-manager form with seven council member seats filled by people residing south of the bay. A mayor would be elected at large as the Seat 1 council member.

Three additional council seats would be elected at large, and three would be elected from within the town’s three districts. Districts would include Miramar Beach and Santa Rosa Beach, with the third district being a combination of Point Washington and Rosemary Beach minus Bunker Island.

Continue reading at the Defuniak Herald website.