By DOTTY NIST
A second public hearing on Walton County’s proposed countywide noise ordinance has been rescheduled for July 8.
The decision to reschedule took place at the June 24 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.
The proposed ordinance had been on the agenda for June 24. However, Walton County Attorney Mark Davis requested delaying the hearing. Davis explained that many comments had been received since the first hearing on the ordinance. The first hearing had taken place at the June 10 BCC meeting.
Davis said the ordinance had been revised in response to comments at the June 10 meeting and that additional public comments had since been received since the first hearing. He requested the delay in order to make revisions in response to that input, which he told the commissioners would make the ordinance easier to understand and more enforceable.
District 3 Commissioner Bill Imfeld said he had received emails expressing concerns about “loopholes” in the proposed ordinance and asked if those would be addressed. Davis said they would.
As originally proposed, the ordinance would have repealed and replaced three existing noise ordinances, one applying to Grayton Beach proper, one to Chaparral Estates, Hidden Harbor and Holiday Shores, and one to the remainder of the unincorporated portion of the county south of the bay. Extending to all of the county’s unincorporated area, the ordinance would have made a change from the use of noise meters to determine noise violations to a reliance on a “plainly audible” standard for violations. District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows had advocated for approval of the ordinance as proposed because the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) had indicated that they would be agreeable with helping the county enforce it.
In the past, the WCSO has been reluctant to assist in enforcing the south-of-the-bay noise ordinance because of its requirement for the use of noise meters to determine violations. The WCSO has responded to noise complaints without the use of noise meters, on the basis of the state breach of peace statute.
At the June 24 meeting, Davis indicated that the current proposal would provide for the use of noise meters by county code enforcement officers in instances of alleged noise violations involving continuous noise such as mechanical noise. Use of the meters has worked well in these instances, he commented. Davis explained that the current proposal involved the addition of language applying to violations in connection with outdoor events and “problem type areas.”
County Commission Chairman Bill Chapman voiced support of the continued use of noise meters by code enforcement. He said it was his understanding that only one current code enforcement officer had obtained certification in noise meter use. This was confirmed by Walton County Planning and Development Director Wayne Dyess.
Chapman said it was also his understanding that training for code officers in the use of noise meters was part of the planning department budget. He suggested that additional staff members become certified to use noise meters.
Dyess confirmed that $10,000 per year was paid to provide for training in the use of noise meters and that it would be possible to enroll up to 10 staff members in the class for that amount.
Maj. Joe Preston of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office stated support of the WCSO for the approach described by Davis and pledged the WCSO’s assistance in augmenting county code enforcement’s efforts to enforce the ordinance.
A motion by District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander to reschedule the hearing of the ordinance for July 8 carried with all aye votes of the four commissioners in attendance, including Chapman, Comander, Imfeld, and District 2 Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen.
The July 8 BCC meeting is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and take place at the South Walton Annex.
By DOTTY NIST