143 new homes planned near Allentown, Chumuckla
A wave of new homes could be coming on County Road 182 between Chumuckla and Allentown.
As development continues to increase in Santa Rosa County, a development group has submitted a preliminary plan to the county for a new project called Rhett’s Run. The first phase of the project includes 143 homes on approximately 80 acres of agriculturally zoned land.
“Due to the sale by RMS Timberlands of much of their property south of (Highway) 182, the county is experiencing a lot of residential development,” said County Planning and Zoning Manager Shawn Ward, to the News Journal in an email.
District 3 Commissioner James Calkins, who represents northern communities, told the News Journal that moving forward the county must do what it can to protect rural areas and farmland.
“The people moving there are the kind of people who are trying to get away from the traffic and want to have a more rural lifestyle. That’s what I see,” Calkins said. “And you have a lot of people who want to get into farming and are moving there.”
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Calkins spoke about the county needing to encourage agriculture without interfering with property rights.
“I think we have to do everything we can to protect him as best we can,” Calkins said.
Use a septic tank to treat wastewater
During this particular development, conservationists raised red flags about the possible use of septic tanks for wastewater management.
“The septic tank is just one of those things they used to do, when people had 5 or 6 acres of land,” said Liz Pavelick of the environmental group Save our Soundside.
While Pavelick and her group have primarily focused their efforts on environmental concerns around the county’s southern peninsula, she was adamant that water protection on the county’s northern end deserved equal attention.
“I think it’s a problem how (development) has gone too far here in the south,” Pavelick said. “Now that they’re running out of areas, of course they’re looking north.”
The health department allows septic systems to be installed on lots as small as a quarter acre, and Ward said he was unaware of the existence of a sewer connection available in the Rhett’s Run area.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, septic systems can have an impact on drinking water wells or surface water bodies, although this possibility and the extent of the impact is determined by the maintenance of the septic system and if treatment capacities are exceeded.
“A concern about septic tanks also has to do with proximity to water. And the closer they are to waterways, and the older the septic tanks, the more of a problem that is,” Calkins said. “There is always a balance to be found in this sort of thing. But I know there is pressure from some people in the county who just want to ban septic systems altogether, and I completely oppose that.
Calkins added that he felt it was best to encourage sewer connections to treat sewage, but said he did not want to ban the use of septic tanks.
“Septic systems have improved in the way they were designed from the old days,” Calkins said. “But overall I would encourage the use of sewer hookups.”
It comes at a time when, in nearby Milton, the city is scrambling to replace its current sewage treatment facility with one to handle greater capacity and discourage the use of septic tanks.