Membership on Walton County’s new Customary Use Ordinance Committee has been determined. At their Dec. 13 regular meeting at the South Walton Annex, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approved a list of recommended committee members provided by Walton County Administrator Larry Jones.
On Oct. 25, the BCC had approved, effective April 1, 2017, a Customary Use Ordinance providing for the public “at large” to utilize the dry sand areas of the beach without interference for traditional recreational activities—with the exception of a buffer zone to be set aside at a distance of 15 feet seaward of the toe of the dune, or at the same distance from any privately-owned permanent habitable structure on or adjacent to the dry sand areas of the beach, whichever is more seaward.
The dry sand area of the beach was defined in the ordinance as, “the zone of unconsolidated material that extends landward from the mean high water line to the place where there is marked change in material or physiographic form, or to the line of permanent vegetation, usually the effective limit of storm waves, whichever is more seaward.”
Per the ordinance, recreational activities stated to be permitted for members of the public on privately-owned dry sand areas of the beach consist of: “walking; jogging; sitting on the sand, in a beach chair, or on a beach towel or blanket; using a beach umbrella that is ten (10) feet or less in diameter; sunbathing; picnicking; fishing; playing beach games; building sand castles; and similar traditional recreational activities.”
The Oct. 25 ordinance approval had been followed immediately by approval of a motion to set up the Customary Use Ordinance Committee with eight to 10 members and different viewpoints represented, with the committee to be tasked with coming up with suggestions and, if needed, changes to be applied to the ordinance. It was determined at that time that members would be selected from applications submitted by people desiring to volunteer for the committee.
At the Nov. 7 BCC meeting, County Administrator Jones had been directed to vet applications for the committee and bring forward recommendations to the BCC.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, Jones reported that 22 applications for committee membership had been turned in by the application deadline. He provided a recommendation for appointment of the following people to serve on the committee: David Bailey, Lisa Boushy, Beth Clay, Celeste Cobena, Lisa Evans, Mike Huckabee, Tom McGee, Tami Mims, Brenda Rees, Chuck Schneider, and Mike Sturdivant, along with alternates Richard Harrell and Janet Huckabee.
District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper asked if this was a “balanced” committee. Jones responded that he believed it was. There had been only one applicant from the north end of the county, he continued, and that person was recommended for appointment. Jones also indicated that committee meetings would be public and that attendees would be able to speak at the meetings.
Among public comment on the agenda item, Camp Creek resident Bob Brooke asked if staff had interviewed committee applicants and questioned whether the committee as proposed would be a “neutral” one. He asked Jones if he had asked applicants for their position on customary use.
Jones responded that they had not interviewed the applicants but had viewed their resumes. On the second issue, he said, “We did not inquire as to that.” He described the committee as a mix of beachfront and nonbeachfront members and a north county resident.
The proposed committee membership was approved by the BCC with all aye votes.
Jones indicated that the first meeting for the committee would be scheduled for early 2017. Additional information on meetings of this committee will be forthcoming.