Development or Destruction?

Major changes may be on the way for our area that could alter the appearance of our coastline and way of life for residents and visitors.

Hundreds of acres of land along the Taylor County coast will transform into a new world if the Magnolia Bay Marina and resort project comes to fruition.

Trey Howard, an attorney and local representative for Magnolia Bay Development, said, "There'll be some resort condominiums as well as motel rooms here in Taylor County. A 600-acre project site is what we're looking at right now."

Dr. J. Crayton Pruitt, a retired vascular surgeon of St. Petersburg, Florida, is using 600 out of his 3,780 acres of land for this project.

The $700 million development would be located just north of Keaton Beach, showcasing 1,400 resort condominiums and hotels, a waterfront town center along with a public access marina basin, an aquarium, commercial shops and restaurants, plus a recreational marina basin with wet and dry storage spaces.

Ronnie Nichols, a Keaton Beach resident, said, "It'll give some local people here that have nothing to do. Me and my wife, we can't fish every day. It would give us some activity. We travel a lot because there's nothing here, especially in the wintertime."

Under the Magnolia Bay Development agreement, Taylor County would receive four acres of land for additional parking at the Keaton Beach boat ramp.

Trey added, "It will provide public access to the people of Taylor County in a way to come and go. It'll be 400 parking spaces at a boat ramp for individuals in Taylor County and surrounding counties. It'll be completely for public use. There will also be a 30-acre annex for the county deeded to the residents."

It still doesn't end there. The project includes piers and boardwalks with associated services.

Trey said, "We just got a sewer system online and Dr. Pruitt is willing to hook up any of the residents that are not able to hook up to the sewer system."

Howard says an exact date for construction to start is unknown, only that it will begin after the permitting phase is complete, which could take a couple of years.