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Officials ponder political signs and habitat conservation

Nov 18th, 2010 | 0

By DOTTY NIST

County commissioners found regulation of political signs to be worth looking at but took no immediate action on the matter at their Nov. 9 regular meeting. Neither was there action on the proposed Habitat Conservaton Plan (HCP), but there was plenty of discussion.

County resident Dick Loverne presented a proposed political sign ordinance to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) at the meeting. Loverne explained that the ordinance was set up to cost the taxpayers no money. He said he had seen lots of signs “laying around” and that he thought picking up political signs after elections had been a problem for Walton County Code Enforcement.

No one from code enforcement was present to comment. However, Walton County Supervisor of Elections Bobby Beasley was in attendance, and the commissioners called him forward to give his opinion.

The proposed ordinance called for all political signs, before being placed, to be stamped with the date, logged and signed by the supervisor of elections office. It also proposed requiring a $5,000 deposit to be put forth by all political organizations to provide for fines on any signs placed without being registered in this manner, with the fines being deducted from the deposit and the signs to be removed by the county and destroyed. The ordinance also set forth signage fees ranging from 40 cents to $4.00 per sign, depending on the size of the sign.

Regarding the proposed ordinance, Beasley commented that, while he could see good intentions with it and that a lot of work had gone into it, he could foresee some legal issues with it. One problem, he noted, would be that some political signs are put up by people from other areas who would have no knowledge of a Walton County ordinance.

Beasley also said he did not see how his office could manage the duties or take on the enforcement proposed in the ordinance.

“I don’t have the resources and personnel to do this,” Beasley said, explaining that his office has only six employees.

District 3 Commissioner Larry Jones said he thought the city of Valparaiso had a political sign ordinance, and that other such ordinances might be in existence as well. He suggested having County Attorney Lynn Hoshihara look at some of these existing political sign ordinances. There was general agreement on this among the BCC. Hoshihara was directed to proceed with this research and report on it to the BCC at a later date.

Discussion of Walton County’s proposed Habitat Conservation Plan also continued at the Nov. 9 meeting, with beachfront property owners targeting the plan as at previous hearings.

Adoption of the plan had been recommended by regulatory authorities in conjunction with the county’s Incidental Take Permit (ITP) application, which is to atone for the issuance by the county of temporary coastal armoring permits following Hurricane Dennis in 2005. The county permits were issued with the understanding that state permission would be required for the armoring to remain permanently.

The sea turtle lighting ordinance, already in place in Walton County, is a major part of the HCP, but it is estimated that the HCP will cost the county over $3 million over 25 years, in addition to existing habitat conservation measures underway in on the beaches….

Read the full story in the Nov. 18, 2010 edition of the Herald Breeze.

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