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Commissioners approve 90-day abatement on ordinances

Nov 28th, 2013 | 0

By DOTTY NIST
The approval process for three proposed ordinance has been halted for a 90-day period following a recommendation by Walton County Administrator Larry Jones.
The three proposed ordinances are the parking ordinance, the outdoor events and activities ordinance, and the business tax receipt (business license) ordinance.
The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) unanimously approved Jones’ recommendation for the 90-day abatement period on activity related to the ordinances. The decision took place at the Nov. 26 BCC regular meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.
Jones’ plan of action was for the 90-day period was for staff to vet the ordinances for applicability, effectiveness, and enforceability and research how they can be restructured to target the issues they are meant to address with a better impact on citizens.
Two of the ordinances in question had been proposed to revise existing ordinances. The other, the business tax receipt ordinance, would set up a business license program for Walton County for the first time.
All the measures had drawn concern and/or opposition from a newly-formed organization of businesses, the Walton County Small Business Association (WCSBA), which was formed during the review process for the parking ordinance.
Jones observed that issues involved with the three ordinances “dovetail.” He noted that staff’s research will include ways that the three ordinances impact each other. Research is also to include how other area governments have dealt with the same issues, he said.
An ongoing study on public parking is underway that is expected to provide staff with additional guidance, Jones noted.
Jones explained that input by groups and citizens would be encouraged during the abatement period and that staff would be available for individual meetings with the public. Workshops and public hearings on the ordinances would be scheduled following the 90-day period, he said.
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander stated that the 90-day period would be “a wonderful time” for organizations to come together and discuss “things that affect all of them.” She suggested that those groups might want to bring suggestions before the BCC on the issues involved.
For a number of weeks, there had been a call by the WCSBA for the appointment of a blue-ribbon committee to meet and develop solutions to issues related to the ordinances. At the Nov. 7 BCC meeting, the commissioners had directed Jones to develop a recommendation on membership for the committee. However, there was no discussion of a blue-ribbon committee at the Nov. 26 BCC meeting.
Gary Shipman, spokesman for the WCSBA, came forward at the Nov. 26 meeting to compliment the BCC on the decision for the abatement period. J.B. Hillard of DeFuniak Springs also commented in favor of the decision.
Miramar Beach homeowner Sandra Luchtefeld was also in agreement but encouraged action on the residential issues related to the ordinances as soon as possible after the end of the abatement period.

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