By DOTTY NIST
County commissioners will soon be considering making a number of changes to Walton County’s beach driving ordinance.
In Walton County, driving on the beach by the public is allowed only in certain sections and during specific hours, and only holders of a county beach driving permit are allowed to take their vehicles on the beach. Beach driving permits are issued by the Walton County Tax Collector’s Office, and no new permits have been issued since the county’s beach driving ordinance was revised in January 2010.
The January 2010 revisions, undertaken by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) in order to “get a handle” on the number of beach driving permits, ended up reducing the number of permits by approximately 40. In summer 2010 the number of existing permits was reported as 772 held by individuals and 11 held by charter boat operators.
New revisions to the ordinance are to be considered on Dec. 14.
Currently the three categories of beach driving permit holders are resident property owners, nonresident property owners, and residents who are charter boat operators. The January 2010 revisions to the ordinance added the requirement that, for both resident and nonresident property owners, their Walton County property must “have constructed on it a habitable residence” in order for them to be eligible for a permit.
One of the proposed changes that the BCC will consider on Dec. 14 will be removing this requirement.
Additional proposals to be considered will be capping the number of beach driving permits issued annually to individuals at 900 and reducing the number of permits available to charter boat operators from 20 to 15.
The ordinance currently exempts permanently disabled property owners from the $105 annual beach driving permit fee. There is also a proposal to exempt these property owners not only from the fee but from the ordinance as a whole.
The Dec. 14 BCC meeting at which the revisions will be considered is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and take place at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
Information on the beach driving ordinance is available on the Walton County Tax Collector’s Web site, www.waltontaxcollector.com, or by calling 892-8121.