Alaqua expansion gets final approval

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DEBORAH WHEELER @WaltonSunDeb

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Alaqua Animal Refuge founder Laurie Hood went before the Walton County Commission on Tuesday night to ask for the county’s final approval for her new location and planned facility.

Commissioners unanimously approved the project, with several speaking up to commend Hood for all the good she has done for the community.

Hood plans to move the refuge from its 10 acres on her private property down the road to about 97 acres that were donated to Alaqua. She plans to develop a 106,211-square-foot animal refuge there.

The property is located on the east side of Joe Dugger Road just north of its intersection with State Road 20 in Freeport, about five miles east of U.S. Highway 331 on the north side of SR 20.

The acreage was designated by the county as Future Land Use Estate Residential and Rural Village on its Future Land Use Map.

Due to the project being declared a major development by county Planning Department, it must include road, parking, sewage and retention ponds — infrastructure that Hood had not planned on initially.

“So we will be kicking off a major capitol campaign very shortly,” she told The Sun.

Hood estimates the cost of infrastructure alone will be $1.4 million.

The entire project is estimated to cost $15 million.

“My plan to make it self-sustaining all depends on all the property being completed to sustain visitors,” she said. “And we have to raise all of that money over and above the $80,000 we have to raise now for monthly operating expenses. So we really have to get to work.”

For more information about Alaqua Animal Refuge or to donate, visit www.alaqua.org.

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