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.