By DOTTY NIST
The proposed Certificate of Land Use Compliance Ordinance, which would establish new requirements for businesses and also for short-term rentals in residential areas, has been scheduled for consideration by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on April 12.
The ordinance includes provisions aimed at addressing noise, litter, and parking disturbances associated with short-term rental homes within residential areas. The ordinance is a new attempt by the county to remedy disharmony in neighborhoods resulting from weddings, receptions, and other large gatherings taking place in residences rented out on a short-term basis.
Over the past few years, previous proposals by the county to address these issues have included a county-wide noise ordinance and a nuisance ordinance.
In October, while opting not to proceed with an earlier proposed ordinance dealing with these issues, the BCC directed more work on the proposal—and opted to have staff incorporate with it provisions for a “Certificate of Land Use Compliance” program for businesses.
Walton County does not have a business license program, and the certificate program was viewed as a means to ensure that businesses are in compliance with the regulations of the land use area in which they are located. It was also seen as a way to obtain information on businesses in existence in the county and their locations in order to facilitate response in the event of fires and other emergencies.
The first draft of the combination ordinance was completed in early February. The draft has undergone a number of changes in response to input from county commissioners and the public.
The currently-proposed ordinance draft, dated March 25, would require all businesses to obtain a certificate of land use compliance from the Walton County Planning and Development Services Division, with the certificate to remain valid as long as the business continues operation, as long as there is no change in the type or intensity of the business, and with the county to verify the business’ certification periodically. The ordinance deems it to be the responsibility of the planning and development services director to verify the availability of adequate parking in connection with the certificate program.
Requirements associated with the certificate of land use compliance would be proof of ownership submitted with the application, in addition to parcel number, street address, use of the building, number of required parking spaces, and contact information for the responsible person.
There would be no initial fee for a certificate, but there would be a $30 re-issuance fee. The certificate would be required to be posted at the business, and the county would retain a copy of the certificate. Walton County Code Enforcement would be responsible for enforcement of the certificate program.
In contrast with an earlier draft of the ordinance, the current ordinance draft does not include a requirement for short-term rentals to obtain a certificate of land use compliance, nor does it mention weddings or other types of activities taking place in short-term rental homes in residential areas. However, the draft ordinance states that use of these accommodations “as a commercial venue” would represent a violation.
The draft ordinance further states: “Gatherings in excess of 50 people are permissible at Short-Term Rental units provided a Residential Special Event Permit is obtained from Code Enforcement for a fee of one hundred ($100) dollars. The applicant for this permit must demonstrate their ability to comply with applicable county ordinances such as, but not limited to, noise, litter, and parking.”
This would be a new type of event permit for Walton County.
Unlike an earlier version of the draft ordinance, the current draft does not address maximum occupancies for buildings.
The draft ordinance is scheduled for consideration in conjunction with the April 12 BCC meeting, which is to begin at 4 p.m. and take place at the South Walton Courthouse Annex. A decision on the proposal may take place at that meeting.