By summer’s start, motorcoach enthusiasts could have a new place to stay on Florida’s Emerald Coast.
Okaloosa County commissioners Tuesday (Jan. 18) approved a local developer’s plans to build an RV park on the north side of U.S. Highway 98 in Fort Walton Beach on Okaloosa Island, The Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
The board voted unanimously to allow the construction of the Island RV Resort just east of the former Island Golf Center property.
Developer Tripp Tolbert, who owns the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, plans to open the RV park by early summer.
“I think this project is past due,” Commission Chairman James Campbell said before the vote. “I think it’ll add beauty to the island.”
The project sparked objections from the Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association.
“We oppose the project because it is not in compliance,” said Dave Miller, the association’s president.
The island’s covenants generally prohibit trailers and temporary living quarters.
Miller said code enforcement already is an issue, and allowing the RV resort could “open up the floodgates” for people to try and put temporary living quarters in other areas on the island.
“We feel the covenants have served the island well,” he said. “We should stick with the covenants as they were written.”
But County Attorney John Dowd advised the commissioners that the covenants also give the board authority to approve facilities that serve the recreational needs of tourists.
Commissioners said the RV resort, which will be subject to the bed tax, will enhance tourism on the island.
The board approved the project with several conditions. Vehicles at the resort will be limited to class A and C motorhomes and fifth-wheel travel trailers. No decks or outside storage will be allowed, and no vehicle will be allowed to occupy a space for longer than six months. All RVs must be kept in road-ready condition with valid tags.
“I think there’s a whole tourist market that we are missing out on,” said Commissioner Dave Parisot, who described himself as an “RVer.” “It has the potential to enhance the use of the convention center for trade shows.”
Mike Minich, who said he’s been an RV tourist for three years, told commissioners the resort will attract people who want to spend their money in the area.
“I fully support this,” said Minich, a Fort Walton Beach councilman. “This is not going to be a campground.”
The roughly $1 million project is slated to feature 54 RV slots, a one-story office building, bath house, swimming pool and extensive foliage. The resort will offer utility hook-ups and Internet connections.
Daily rates will average $60 to $99 a night, depending on the season.