FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — The Board of Okaloosa County Commissioners approved a motion at the Dec. 6 meeting to present three options to the City of Fort Walton Beach in hopes to purchase the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds on Lewis Turner Blvd.

Option 1: The County would purchase the City’s Fairgrounds Property.
This would be a straightforward purchase of the property for the net acreage of approximate
19.88 (actual closer to 20.3 acres). This purchase price would be approximately $4.1 Million.
This valuation is based on the City’s appraised “as value” valuation with deductions for retained
City property and added County property. The final price would be a math equation based on
boundary adjustments and final survey acreages.

Option 2: Hybrid – The City would acquire approximately 2.5 acres of the County’s Former Hospital Property and the County would acquire the net City Fairgrounds Property (19.88) plus pay the difference in valuations.

  1. The City would acquire 2.5 acres of the County’s Former Hospital Property based on the City Appraisal “Vacant Land” acreage valuation, which would be approximately $570,775
  2. The County would acquire the remaining Fairgrounds Property based on the net valuations of the two properties. This would be a payment to the City of approximately $3.45M
  3. The County would construct additional parking where the demolition of the hospital occurs in order to support the Health Department and remove the Health Department parking from the transferred 2.5 acres. More redevelopment and cleanup would occur on the County’s remaining site.
  4. The City would have a right of first refusal for any additional property the County wanted to release from the site.

Option 3: Full Swap with the City and County Properties with a long-term holdover of the County’s Health Department.

  1. The City would acquire the full County 6.57 acre site and the County would acquire the net
    Fairgrounds acreage site (20.3 acres/net value 19.88 acre) based on the City’s appraisal “As is” acreage valuations for both properties, which will create a net valuation in favor of the County ($4.7M County to $4.1M City)
  2. The County would need a 24-36 month phase-out of existing tenants, excluding the Health
    Department and the Council on Aging. The Council on Aging (COA) lease continues for
    approximately 2 years and would be assigned to the City, although the County would continue to work with the City and COA to help relocate them.
  3. The County would need a minimum holdover for the Health Department of 20 years due to
    the large financial obligation this would create for the County. To compensate the City for the holdover tenancy the County would forgo the difference in valuations ($600K+/-), pay the City an additional $100K in cash, and the County would perform other in-kind work of at least ($300+) consisting of demolition and site redevelopment on the hospital site at the County’s cost as described herein.

The board approved a letter to be sent to the city for further direction. At the last council meeting on Nov. 29, the city decided to hold off on deeming the land surplus and start the bidding process for the land until they had more information about the county’s aspirations.

All three options will keep the land as a public-use facility. The county said listing the fairgrounds as a tourism project will allow them to use Tourism Tax District funds to improve the facility and grow the event space.

Commissioner Ketchel (District 2) said the land needs to stay within the city or county’s control for safety reasons. The fairgrounds have been used as a staging area for Hurricane and disaster recovery over the years.

The Fort Walton Beach City Council will meet again on Dec. 13 to review the letter from the county and continue the conversations.

Review the full agenda item and watch the discussion on the county’s website.