Questions from a Seaside Resident: Responses by Institute Director

Q:  In regards to the Academic Village, what is the agreement between the Seaside Institute and SCDC (Seaside Community Development Corporation)?

DD:  SCDC is the developer of Seaside and the owner of the property on the Lyceum in which the Seaside Institute proposes to place the Academic Village.  Areas in the Lyceum may be completed and conveyed to owners other than SCDC, such as the area conveyed to the Seaside Neighborhood School; however, there are no plans at this time for the proposed academic village site to be conveyed to the Institute.  An agreement between the SCDC and the Institute will be prepared regarding the use of the space prior to the buildings being placed on the site.

Q:  Who will be responsible for upkeep if they begin to fall apart?

DD:  The Institute will be responsible for the upkeep of the buildings.  Ample reserves will be set aside from programming revenue to address maintenance issues; however, the buildings have been constructed to require low maintenance through the use of materials such as metal roofs and Hardieboard siding.

Q: Does the Institute have sufficient funds to install and maintain?

DD:  The buildings were gifted to the Institute by the Robert Davis Foundation.  Installation costs will originally be covered by the Davis’s; however, the Institute intends to repay the cost of installation and has included that repayment in its business plan projection. The Institute has projected through a detailed business plan that it will have sufficient funds to maintain the cottages and conduct its programming.

Q:  What benefit will they offer homeowners?

DD:  The Academic Village will add one more civic institution to the neighborhood. Like the other civic structures in Seaside, such as the school, post office and church, civic buildings are there to be enjoyed by the community without direct financial support from the community, as they are supported by their members and instead of regular contributions by every homeowner in the community (i.e. HOA facilities).

On a more practical level, the Academic Village will serve as a place of study. Instructors from all over the country will be invited to teach in the village, and we intend to provide easily accessible community-wide lectures from many of these prominent speakers. In addition, some of the programming will permit workshops that residents in the community can sign up to attend as day students vs. those who come in to stay the week in a cottage.

Q:  Are these buildings technically trailers?

DD:  I would like to address this answer without the “technically” preface, as different industries (builders, manufacturers, insurance) use different terms to define similar structures.

The term “trailer” traditionally describes a usually small, wheeled home with a history and image of flimsy construction such as wooden 1×3 wall framing clad with aluminum siding, virtually no insulation, and low-quality leaky windows. This definition would not define the cottages the Institute intends to place in the Lyceum.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has long used the term “trailer” in defining the travel units used to provide shelter after natural disaster. Most of us know what the majority of FEMA trailers look like (see below). They are manufactured from plastic, aluminum, and particle board, are somewhat flimsy and require more maintenance than a permanent structure. They are also poorly insulated, offer little sound insulation, and are known to sway in high winds. There has also been health issues connected with this type of FEMA trailer due to substandard building materials. Never intended to be anything but temporary housing for victims after a natural disaster, these trailers were and continue to be welcome options to having no shelter at all.

The MEMA cottages (shown below on a permanent foundation), which were developed under FEMA post-Katrina, were created to be a much preferred alternative to the FEMA trailer. They are modular, stick-built homes that were constructed to be converted to permanent dwellings. While it can be “trailed” from place to place while the wheels are in place, the cottages are aesthetically pleasing, of sound construction, durable, insulated and unless damaged they exhibit no adverse health problems. They are also wind-resistant up to 150 mph, as long as they are strapped in place.

A better term for the MEMA cottages would be to call them mobile homes while they are still secured on the metal frame and wheels. However, once set on a foundation, the cottages will be considered a permanent home and will be insured as such, just like the other buildings in Seaside.

A view of the MEMA “trailer” before installing on a permanent foundation shown below.

Q:  Are buildings up to Walton County Code?

DD:  Yes, they are.

Q:  If they are to be placed so close together does county require fireproof exterior?

DD:  The placement of these buildings does not require any special conditions by the county in regards to exterior material. However, these buildings are constructed with a cement-fiber board, which is more resistant to fire than wood.

Q:  Do they have fireproof exterior?

DD:  The homes are constructed inside and out with a fiber-cement product, which have a better fire rating than wood. You may want to check out this video to see the difference in wood vs. fiber-cement products.

Q:  Are wheel chair ramps required?

DD:  One of the houses will be required to beADA accessible. That house will require some interior and exterior modifications, which will include a ramp to connect the house to a path, which will then connect to a handicapped parking space.  See site plan at top right of this page.

Q:  Will Seaside Code need to be changed to allow Hardieboard and other man-made materials?

DD:  The Seaside Code will not need to be changed to permit Hardieboard in this application.  Civic structures in the Lyceum are subject to review by SCDC per the Lyceum Declaration of Easements, Covenants and Restrictions. While the Seaside Code does set standards for the neighborhood, the SCDC reserves the right to grant variances from the Code. SCDC would need to grant a variance in this case.

Q:  Should commercial activity be allowed in areas designated civic?  Will county allow?  

DD:  The use for the Seaside Academic Village will be “civic” not “commercial.”  It is permitted bySeaside and by the County under the “Essentially Built-Out Agreement for the Town of Seaside Development of Regional Impact” or DRI.

Q:  Should additional parking spaces be required?

DD:  Additional parking spaces will be required and have been addressed in the application.

Q:  Will parking study answer this question?

DD:  A parking study for this particular proposal is not required.

Q:  Should we allow substantial removal of trees in one of our few remaining forested areas?

DD:  The Lyceum was once a completely treed site.  Most were removed for the installation of the Seaside Neighborhood School and the recreational lawn.  Previous plans for the Lyceum (William Rawn plans of 2001, 2003 and 2004) required the removal of most of the trees in the Lyceum.  This plan, however, will save many of the trees as the cottages will be inserted into the forested area instead of replacing the forested area, and a buffer of at least 10 feet will be created between the cottages and Smolian Circle.





  1. Diane, very interesting account of the planned village. It sounds like a wonderful amenity for Seaside education. I’ve been inside several Katrina Cottages in Mississippi and Louisiana, and they are not just charming, they feel solid and practical. Good luck with this venture.

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