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.
A hotelier and developer 0n Okaloosa Island, Fla., has unveiled plans to build a 6.2-acre RV resort on the north side of U.S. Highway 98 in the state's panhandle, The Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
Tripp Tolbert, who owns the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, has proposed the Island RV Resort, which will go before Okaloosa County commissioners for approval on Tuesday (Jan. 18).
Tolbert’s company, Waterpark Place Development Corp., is behind the project planned for just east of the former Island Golf Center property on Okaloosa Island.
“I feel there’s a need in this area for an RV resort,” said Tolbert, who added that most serious RV tourists end up in Santa Rosa or Walton counties. “Not only will it capture an audience we’re presently missing, I think it’ll complement the conference center because a lot of people come to the shows and they travel in RVs.”
Tolbert said an RV resort also would accommodate traveling sports teams in the spring seasons.
Current plans call for 54 RV spaces and a variety of amenities.
“It’s going to have a swimming pool. It’s going to be gated,” Tolbert said. “We’re going to have a check-in facility with a restroom, shower, whatnot.”
He said he eventually would like to add pontoon and other boat rentals at the rear of the property.
“I own the Ramada, so anything I do over there I want to be done in good taste,” Tolbert said. “I have a lot at stake out here.”
He said the RV resort will feature “heavy, heavy landscaping.”
“It’s going to be very lush, very beautiful,” Tolbert said. “I’m not doing a trailer park.”
He said his rates will be structured to attract a higher end of business.
“I’m only allowing three classes of (motor) coaches and I’m restricting about eight classes,” he said. “We’re not having campers on trucks or pop-up tents or any of that.”
Local developer Bob Bonezzi said he likes the idea.
“I’m all for it as long as it’s high-end,” said Bonezzi, who added that an RV resort would fit in well along the U.S. 98 corridor of Okaloosa Island.
County Commissioner Don Amunds said he doesn’t object to what he’s heard so far, but wants more information.
“I don’t have a major problem with an RV park, but obviously we’re going to have to look at the details and listen to folks Tuesday,” he said.
Tolbert said the property lends itself to some kind of tourism use.
“I think it’ll be a great year-round facility,” he said. “I want to do something that’s family oriented and complements the hotel business … and is good for the area.”