County contractor lobbies for its proposed plan

In an unusual move, the master planning firm hired by the Escambia Board of County Commissioners has begun to lobby residents for its plans for OLF-8, a 500+ acre site off of I-10 next to Navy Federal Credit Union, and aggressively go after county commissioners.

The firm has created a page to defend its proposals: OLF-8 Myths and Facts. It’s unclear whose “myths”  DPZ Codesign is trying to dispel or why the firm would attack the commissioners that hired it.

DPZ Codesign is a national firm known for its New Urbanism approach to city planning and its work on resort towns like Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach in South Walton County.

The firm has never been this political – at least to our knowledge. Five years, the county commission hired DPZ Codesign to develop a master plan for Perdido Key. It didn’t lobby for its specific recommendations and instead worked with the commissioners on its suggestions.

While DPZ Codesign is pushing out this web page, someone is emailing a flyer soliciting people to write their commissioners, according to a post by Commissioner Jeff Bergosh:  Flyer, Logo and Summary of Stars, Ltr to BCC, 20 Jan 21-1.

Sigh. Only in Escambia County.





5 thoughts on “County contractor lobbies for its proposed plan

  1. This is not surprising at all from DPZ. The City also hired them several years ago for the creation of a new zoning Overlay District. Throughout the charrettes and public input process, numerous residents expressed concern to DPZ continuously that the overlay would negatively effect their private property rights. In addition, there were a number of builders who expressed concerns that the overlay district would drive up construction costs, and therefore housing costs, in an area that is already experiencing a massive housing shortage. DPZ constantly dismissed these claims and repeatedly told those with these concerns that the overlay district was merely to adopt additional “guidelines” for architectural design and construction (i.e. optional). Then when the language of the overlay district was revealed, those “guidelines” had turned into “standards” (i.e. mandatory). One of the speakers who then pointed out the audacity and shamefulness bait-and-switch was none other than Bill Weeks, a man who spent decades working for the City as a Building Official and was keenly aware of all of the ins-and-outs of the City’s building code and land development code. If I remember correctly he had either recently retired or was retiring shortly thereafter and spoke at the meeting in his capacity as a citizen and resident.

  2. Travis,

    It would help educate the public for DPZ to tell us how many jobs and their average annual salary each recommendation would create. While DPZ states each plan will produce “a minimum of 1,000 high-wage, high-tech jobs on site,” the public deserves more specifics, tell the public how. Triumph funds are tied to specifics and while DPZ may dismiss their importance, their client, the Board of County Commissioners, has not from the very beginning of the DPZ taking on this project.


  3. Why would the firm release a fact sheet without approval of its client, the Board of County Commissioners? Shouldn’t the client and vendor first agree on the facts? Does the information provided correct misinformation or defend DPZ?

  4. Rick, DPZ has always been this political…they just haven’t had to go to these extreme measures before. I don’t fault them for being political, as you pretty much have to be as a Master Planner firm that takes pride in top-down design (its founder has spoken to this repeatedly, has stated in print that it is a shame that Americans’ love of private property results in bad planning, and that they were having much more success with their desired results on the Emerald Coast–you don’t get Seaside without being political masters).

    Back in the day, Larry Newsom terminated DPZ for getting into the argument over the 2 versus 4 lane stuff out in Perdido. When Doug came to office, he hired them back, and achieved maintaining the 2-laning of PK Drive as a result–for better or worse, depending upon who you talk with.

    Anybody following the OLF8 process closely could see that this whole thing was telescoped from the beginning to make an argument for a bedroom community for Navy Federal. Again, for better or worse, depending upon who you talk with. I thought it was a horrible idea to let NF pay for the Master Planning for just that reason. It was pretty common knowledge that NF was going to pull the 1M for the planning process if DPZ wasn’t awarded the contract–this was hardly a secret.

    All it needed was for Doug to tank the vote on the scoring during the master planner selection for the other two firms, which everybody knew he was going to do, and he was happy to oblige. It didn’t take long for the zoning changes on their carve out to get brought before the Planning board. I spoke with executives for Navy Federal afterwards at that particular meeting, and expressed that whatever else they were planning on getting done there, that I hoped they would stick to their word of having some public access and park space in their carve out they purchased, and that a walking path wasn’t too much to ask given they had been gifted DPZ by Doug and had a good shot of getting their residential. None of them corrected that notion.

    Again, this isn’t to rally for one plan or the other–I’ve always stayed neutral on what happens at OLF8. Maybe residential for Navy Federal employees really is some good use of space there–as I don’t live nearby, as long as we get the jobs, I don’t have a dog in the residential fight. Just underlining that this is all happening to political plan years in the making–for better or worse, depending on who you talk with.

  5. Hi Rick-

    In an environment where there is so much misinformation flying around about OLF-8, how is it “lobbying” if the DPZ team (of which I’m a part, as you know) is trying to educate the public, and potentially people inside the policy process, about the issues surrounding the project?

    The intent of the information is certainly not to attack anyone, but rather to explain the issues surrounding this project that have been misinterpreted, misunderstood, or simply ignored.

    Why would facts be offensive? Who would feel attacked by the DPZ team explaining the project? Wouldn’t members of the community, the commissioners, and the media appreciate the effort to correct misinformation about the project?

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