Utility expansion aimed to support growth in Sunny Hills

SUNNY HILLS – A town known for its major real estate bust, now sits on the edge of a new
According to Washington County officials, development is pouring into the county and, to keep
up with it, the county is eyeing a $13 million infrastructure investment down State Road 77
into Sunny Hills.
“There are currently 70-80 homes being built in South Washington County … with two to three
developers targeting to build 200 homes a year,†said Jeff Massey, the county administrator.
“More rural and not as built up in the hustle and bustle as some of our neighboring
communities, Sunny Hills is an attractive place to live.â€
Massey said about a year ago county officials met with Florida Power & Light, U.S. Water
Services Corporation, and long-time Sunny Hills developer Deltona to put together a plan that
would ultimately revive the town. The county’s role would be to build the water and sewer
Although the county has “not committed to anything†financially, Massey said staff is currently
pursuing state funding that is available for rural infrastructure.
“We are in the infant stages on this,†he said. “We have a design, we have identified the costs,
and we have reached out to secure that money from the State.â€
The 28-square-mile town was platted in the 1970’s as a new planned city “expected to rival
the $600 million Disney World in Central Florida and to add Northwest Florida to the map in
development,†according to the news story by the late historian Marlene Womack. However,
the development did not take off as expected “due to the economy and other factors.â€
This time, the outlook is much different.
In the ‘70s, people from all over the world had purchased the homesites. Now, it will be partly
driven by regional migration into the inland.

“It’s people who are working in Bay County that are moving to south Washington and willing to
drive back to work,†Massey said, noting businesses have also contacted the county about
moving into the area. “You’re not going to have to drive to Chipley or Lynn Haven to shop
because those types of business will be in Sunny Hills.â€
The project is dependent on whether the county can secure the state funding, officials
Nonetheless, the precept that Sunny Hills will grow is a firm one, as economic development is
steadily heading towards south Washington County.
The town boasts a pristine natural environment, a once top-rated golf course, and history that
extends back to the 1800s.
Coupled with two four-lane highways that lead directly to coastal waters, ease of access to
Interstate-10, and the proper infrastructure to sustain the growth – the town is impregnably
ripe to be the economic boon it had been originally planned out to be.
“My theory on this is it doesn’t matter if we sat here and did nothing, the growth is coming
anyway because the money is coming to the Panhandle,†Massey concluded. “Isn’t it
important that we be involved?â€