By DOTTY NIST
Commissioners got an earful from the public at the Dec. 14 public hearing on proposed revisions to Walton County’s beach driving ordinance, but the end result was no action, at least for now.
District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones was the only commissioner in favor of going ahead with revisions that would have made beach driving permits available to more than 150 additional people. The other four commissioners voted in favor of District 2 Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen’s motion to put off consideration of changes to the beach driving ordinance until Feb. 8. Pridgen said hearing the public’s concerns and suggestions in connection with the ordinance had raised unanswered questions for him about what was being proposed.
Mrs. Jones said her office had been bombarded with calls from people interested in getting a beach driving permit. She was disappointed that the opportunity to go ahead with expansion of the permit program had not been taken as early as possible.
The hearing was in conjunction with the regular Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex. The meeting was well-attended by people keenly interested in the beach driving issue.
For the public, beach driving in Walton County is restricted to permit holders and limited to two short designated sections of Grayton Beach and Inlet Beach, during certain hours.
Since the beach driving ordinance was previously amended in January 2010, aside from permits going to charter boat operators, no new permits have been granted, just renewals for existing permit holders who own property in the county and meet the other conditions of the ordinance.
As part of that previous revision, in order to be eligible for a permit, property owners have been required to have a habitable structure in place on their parcel.
One of the changes up for consideration at the Dec. 14 hearing was the removal of the structure requirement. Among other proposed changes, an additional 150 beach driving permits would have been made available on a yearly basis, on a first-come, first-served application basis, with applicants being required to meet all the ordinance’s existing criteria with the exception of having held a permit the previous year. There are currently more than 725 existing beach driving permits.
Among other revisions under consideration at the hearing were: making registered voters who were not county property owners eligible for permits; decreasing the number of permits available for charter boat operators from 20 to 15; increasing the yearly permit fee from $105 to $125 to help fund the county’s Habitat Conservation Plan, and with $10 going to the county tax collectors office, which issues the permits; and making temporary beach driving permits issued by code enforcement available to disabled nonresidents….
Read the full story in the December 23, 2010 edition of the Herald Breeze.