By DOTTY NIST
What are the limits on the “limited outdoor entertainment” that is provided for in Village Mixed Use land use areas? The Walton County Land Development Code does not give a meaning for the term.
A lengthy debate on the question was prompted by an appeal of Walton County Planning and Development Services Director Wayne Dyess’ ruling on the question. The debate took place at the Nov. 20 regular meeting of the Walton County Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) at the South Walton Annex.
Bill Brakebill, president of the Town Center Association at Gulf Place, had filed the appeal challenging Dyess’ interpretation. Brakebill was not present, but two representatives of the association were, Jim Mustachio and Delta Knzanski.
Walton County Attorney Mark Davis was in attendance to advise the ZBA. Greg Stewart, county contract attorney, advised staff and helped present their case.
Stewart explained that the homeowners’ association had asked Dyess for an interpretation of “limited outdoor entertainment.” His response, Stewart noted, had been that the outdoor entertainment would be required to cease at 10 p.m. Dyess’ conclusion, Stewart said, had been that there would be no limitation on noise level other than what was provided in the noise ordinance applying to the area.
Ordinance 2009-03 sets allowable decibel levels that vary by hour and applies to the area south of the bay. This is with the exclusion of Grayton Beach proper, which is covered by a separate noise ordinance.
Stewart explained that Gulf Place is in a Village Mixed Use land use category, which is contemplated to have residential and commercial uses close together. There have been recent complaints regarding a restaurant that puts on outdoor entertainment, he said.
ZBA Chairman Joe Johnson asked who enforces the noise ordinance.
Dyess responded that discussions on enforcement of the ordinance are underway between Walton County Code Enforcement and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO).
Johnson expressed concern, asking that if a “five-piece band” can be set up, “then what’s limited?”
“What else can you throw in there, a circus?” he asked Dyess.
Davis summed up Dyess’ decision as stating that amplified music would be allowed until 10 p.m.
Dyess clarified that what was being discussed was music at restaurants. A circus would not be allowed, and it is not up to the county to tell a restaurant what kind of band they may have, he stated.
Knzanski commented that the homeowners had thought that Dyess’ interpretation “didn’t go far enough.” Gulf Place is 50 percent residential, she revealed. Knzanski said the homeowners believed that “limited outdoor entertainment” should be defined as “no amplified sound” being allowed.
She said the homeowners had been documenting complaints related to a restaurant on the southeast side of the community since April 30. Amplified music from the restaurant is disturbing the peace of the community, she told the board members.
People renting units at Gulf Place have had to be moved because of the noise, and one owner has given up her unit due to the noise, Knzanski testified. She added that she herself lives half a mile away from Gulf Place and that the noise bothers her at her home.
ZBA member Kim Wennerberg asked Knzanski if the homeowners had tried other avenues to solve the problem. Knzanski said they had met with code enforcement and the WCSO. She said code enforcement was not available after hours. She added that residents had measured the decibel level of the music and had found that it far exceeded the limits set in the noise ordinance….
Read the full story in the Nov. 28, 2013 edition of the Herald Breeze.
By DOTTY NIST