By DOTTY NIST
A July 12 public hearing has been set for Walton County’s proposed Certificate of Land Use Compliance Ordinance. This will be the second required public hearing for the current draft ordinance, and adoption may take place at that time.
Walton County does not require a business license, and this certificate program has been viewed by officials as a way to have an inventory of businesses for purposes such as emergency response—and to ensure that all businesses operating within the county are permissible activities within the land use area in which they are located, with the goal of preventing negative impacts on surrounding properties.
An earlier draft of the ordinance had included standards and requirements for homes rented out on a short-term basis within residential areas. However, that component of the ordinance has been removed, and the county’s only initiative with regard to these short-term rentals consists of efforts to clarify land development code provisions related to these rentals.
The Certificate of Land Use Compliance ordinance would require all businesses operating within the county to have a certificate issued by Walton County Planning and Development Services.
Excluded from the requirement would be agricultural or silvicultural uses, roadside and beach vending, home occupations as defined in the Walton County Land Development Code, and residential rentals, both long term and short term.
Aside from these exceptions, any new business would be required to obtain a certificate prior to going into operation in the county, and existing businesses would have 180 days from the adoption of the ordinance to obtain a certificate.
There would be no initial cost for issuance of a certificate, and it would remain valid as long as the business continues to operate, barring any changes in its type, intensity, ownership, or location. There would be a $30 fee for re-issuance of a certificate, which would be required in the event of such changes.
Verification that the business is permissible in its land use district and that it meets Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code requirements would be conducted by Walton County Planning and Development Services upon a business’ application for a Certificate of Land Use Compliance.
Displayed on certificates would be the name of the property owner, the parcel number and street address where the business is located, the use of the building or property, the number of required parking spaces, and name and contact information for the business operator or responsible person.
Planning and development services would retain a copy of the certificate, and the certificate would be required to be displayed in a conspicuous place in the building where the business operates.
The county would verify certification of business on a period basis.
The state requirement for periodic fire inspections of businesses would remain in force, and county fire departments and districts would be responsible during these inspections for verification that all businesses are in possession of a Certificate of Land Use Compliance—and for notification of the county in instances where business are not in compliance with maintenance of a certificate.
The Walton County Code Enforcement Department and Code Enforcement Board would be responsible for enforcement of the ordinance, and, for violations of the ordinance, fines of up to $250 per day for initial violations and up to $500 per day for repeat violations would be possible.
The public hearing for the ordinance is scheduled in conjunction with the July 12 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting, which is to begin at 4 p.m. and take place at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.