Okaloosa approves buying more land at Shoal River Ranch economic development site

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

CRESTVIEW — With an eye toward boosting economic growth, the Okaloosa County Commission on Tuesday approved an effort to increase its land holdings at the Shoal River Ranch.

The county currently owns 750 undeveloped acres of industrial-zoned land at the overall 10,500-acre economic development site, which extends from U.S. Highway 90 south to beyond Interstate 10. The site’s main entry, the unpaved Jericho Road, is about 5 miles east of Crestview and just south of U.S. 90.

The main entrance to the Shoal River Ranch economic development site, located just east of Crestview on U.S. Highway 90.

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In a 4-0 vote, the commission approved buying 258 acres of ranch land with a little more than $1.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act money. The county anticipates closing on the purchase of the property from Long Creek Industrial LLC of Bloomington, Indiana, before the end of August.

Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel had an excused absence from Tuesday’s meeting.

The 258-acre parcel lies west of Jericho Road and just north of I-10. It also abuts a total of 662 acres of county land, a quarter of which is the site of the planned Shoal River Wastewater Treatment Plant, and is well south of an 88-acre county parcel next to U.S. 90.

Shoal River Ranch covers some 10,500 acres east of Crestview. Okaloosa County owns 750 acres of the property and has agreed to buy an additional 258 acres.

The motive for the new land purchase was twofold: The county is making major investments in Shoal River Ranch infrastructure that could be leveraged further for more potential economic development, and it might see a greater need for additional land to use for effluent disposal at the future wastewater plant, according to Deputy County Administrator of Operations Craig Coffey.

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Crestview to announce that the county will receive a $3.2 million grant to help prepare the ranch for development.

The grant comes from a state fund supported by federal pandemic-relief money. It will be used with $1.4 million in county and Triumph Gulf Coast funds to expand roads, rail lines, water and sewer infrastructure and broadband connectivity, and make other upgrades to benefit at least the existing county-owned ranch parcels.

Of the overall 10,500-acre ranch site, 6,850 acres lie north of I-10 and the remainder lies south of it. An overpass at Jericho Road connects the two sections.

The Idaho-base Holland Ware Charitable Foundation owns most of the site.