By DOTTY NIST
The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) opted not to proceed with an ordinance regulating short-term rentals of single-family detached residential homes, at least in the form brought before the officials on Oct. 26.
The draft ordinance was the county’s latest strategy to reduce impacts of short-term rentals on surrounding neighborhoods. Noise and disturbances from homes rented out for weddings and other events have been a particular concern in recent years.
The proposed ordinance would have required any owner of a detached single-family home to register with the county before leasing it to tourists or other guests for a period ranging from one day to six months. Additional requirements were the designation of a responsible party to address any problems with the rental, informing renters of county codes regarding noise, parking, garbage and common areas usage, the posting of a sign on the property displaying an emergency contact number, and the keeping of a register of guests available for county inspection.
On the agenda for the BCC at their Oct. 26 regular meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex had been the setting of a public hearing for the consideration of the ordinance in public session. However, the commissioners were not comfortable with going forward with the approval procedure on the draft ordinance as written.
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander commented that she was not convinced that the draft ordinance would adequately address issues such as noise, parking and disturbance of the peace. She suggested that planning and legal staff work together on a new draft ordinance.
“I certainly don’t disagree,” said District 3 Commissioner Larry Jones.
Jones made an additional suggestion. At the BCC’s last meeting, staff had been directed to research the establishment of a certificate of land use compliance program to ensure that county land use requirements are met when a new business moves into a particular location. Jones suggested that staff work on this initiative jointly with the short-term rental ordinance draft and “dovetail” the terms and conditions involved for land use compliance.
Comander agreed with Jones’ proposal. She moved to have staff work on an ordinance incorporating the noise, parking and disturbance of the peace issues, along with ensuring proper land use when a business moves into a location. The motion was approved with no opposing votes.
Community members were encouraged to contact the planning and legal departments with any input.
Later, during the public comment period, south Walton County businessman Richard Veldman addressed the commissioners. As a person in the short-term rental business, he volunteered his services in the writing of the draft ordinance.
David Kramer suggested that the ordinance be applied to property in residential and mixed use classifications but not to other land use areas such as industrial.
Sandra Luechtefeld emphasized that the ordinance must address “habitual offenders.”
Staff agreed to have the draft ordinance ready for consideration within 60 days.