Another apartment complex could be coming to the Beulah area after Escambia County Commissioners approved a zoning change for 13 acres on Pine Forest Road on Thursday night in a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Jeff Bergosh, who represents the area, voted against the measure, saying it should wait until the Beulah Master Plan that is meant to guide growth in the area has been completed.

Pine Forest Development Group asked the county for a zoning change that would allow for building a $40 million apartment complex at 7045 Pine Forest Road.

Representatives of the group did not say Thursday how many units were being planned, but the zoning category would allow for a maximum of 348 units on the property.

The zoning change approved Thursday was actually a down-zoning that took the future land use of the property from commercial to mixed-use urban, which is what the surrounding area is zoned.

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Much of the property next to the site is still rural in nature with homes on multi-acre lots, but the zoning of most of the property in the area is mixed-use urban, which the county’s zoning says should be a minimum of 3.5 homes per acre. However, within a mile of the property are dozens of subdivisions in the rapidly growing area of Beulah, and the new development is on one of the busiest roads in the county.

Commercial zoning allows for more types of uses than mixed-use urban, and property owner Eric Gleaton argued it should be a plus for neighbors that the property was being downgraded.

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“I’m downgrading the commercial to allow apartments, which is less traffic, less rats, mini-warehouses, whatever it could be,” Gleaton said. “The commercial allows so much more industrial, commercial type stuff. It’s not a rural area. It’s on Pine Forest Road, a lot of traffic out there.”

Three of the property’s neighbors came out to the commission meeting to voice opposition to the change, citing increased traffic and safety concerns from having an apartment complex located next door.


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Pam Huggins said the surrounding area is a residential area of single-family homes, and it made no sense to allow a multi-family development there

“I’m asking you to consider what it would be like in your neighborhood,” Huggins said. “If you wouldn’t want this done in your neighborhood, how can you approve it in my neighborhood?”

Jim Rudnik, CEO of Rudnick Development out of Tallahassee and a partner in the Pine Forest Development Group, said he has built similar developments in Atlanta and Tallahassee. He said the complex would be market-rate units.

“It’ll be very nice,” Rudnik said. “…We came here two years ago and loved your area. And think it’s a great place for us to be in business.”

The group submitted an application for the zoning change in 2019, but the commission tabled the decision multiple times before voting to send it to the state of Florida for review. The review came back from the state with no comments, and the commission was required to take a vote or open itself up to legal action.


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Bergosh said he couldn’t support moving forward on the proposal until the Beulah Master Plan had been completed. Escambia County is using $300,000 of RESTORE Act money to develop a master plan for the area that will guide growth in the booming community.

“The footprint of this project is right in the study area,” Bergosh said. “So that’s been my hesitancy, it’s nothing against the property owner. And I want to look out for the residents, and the residents have told me loud and clear they want this master plan. So, here’s where I think we’re at. I would love to be supportive, but I would prefer to finish the master plan beforehand.”

Commissioner Lumon May asked the developers about how much of their workforce will be from the county during construction, and the developers said 80% which was enough to gain May’s support.

Commissioner Robert Bender said he felt this type of development was hard to find in the Pensacola area and would help draw high-skilled workers here.

“If you want to recruit younger people, those out of college to come work somewhere, this is typically where they like to live,” Bender said.

Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.

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