By DOTTY NIST
The latest draft of Walton County’s proposed Certificate of Land Use Compliance Ordinance got a thorough discussion on April 12 by the public, and community members continued to disagree about the proposal.
Lynn Hoshihara, county attorney, began the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) hearing on the ordinance with the statement that, while this had been called the “wedding house” ordinance, it really was a certificate of land use compliance ordinance. It would require that all businesses apply for a certificate from the county ensuring that the business is permissible for the land use area in which it locates, she explained.
However, some residents’ focus is on a component of the ordinance that they see as a remedy to disturbances from short-term rental homes in their neighborhoods that are rented to guests holding large wedding receptions and other events in the homes.
The latest draft of the ordinance, Hoshihara commented, addresses violations with any short-term rental accommodation being rented out without the owner first registering with the Walton County Clerk of Courts as a tourist development tax collector.
The current draft does not reference weddings but states that it shall be a violation “to operate a short-term rental, located in a residential land use category, for non-residential use.”
The proposed ordinance would establish the requirement for a $300 Residential Event Permit to be obtained in order for any gathering of more than 50 people to be allowed at a short-term rental. The stated purpose of the permit requirement is “to ensure these gatherings remain residential in nature.”
The draft ordinance would require all activities in connection with these gatherings, including cleanup, to be completed before 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and before 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It would also prohibit amplified outdoor music at gatherings after 9 p.m. on all days of the week.
The proposal would provide for no more than four of these permits to be obtained within a six-month period for any parcel.
Hoshihara said there had been a suggestion that no more than four permits could be obtained during this time period on contiguous parcels owned by the same person. Another suggestion, she noted, was that gatherings of 30 to 50 people would not require a permit but would require advance notification to the county.
Capt. Joe Preston of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office expressed willingness to meet and work with the BCC regarding enforcement of the ordinance and to address issues related to the proposal.
“I think we’re on the right track,” commented Miramar Beach resident Paul Luchtefeld. He added that in his opinion the crux of the matter was differentiating commercial use from residential use with the short-term rentals.
Suzanne Harris of the Edgewater Beach condominiums observed that people come to stay in south Walton County for peace, quiet and relaxation—and that they get upset if renters next to them have loud parties. She expressed concern about who would keep track of permits that had been issued for contiguous parcels.
Mary Nielson wanted clarification on how the four-permit limit would apply if the same renters held gatherings on subsequent days, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, for example.
Richard Veldman asked how the $300 permit fee would be used. Hoshihara responded that fees would be used to administer the ordinance….
Read the full story in the April 21, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.