Officials to take up scooter ordinance, talk about vacation rental ordinance

By DOTTY NIST

On the agenda for the Sept. 14 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting is an ordinance to regulate rental electric scooters. At the meeting county staff will also be seeking guidance on an ordinance that they had been directed by the BCC to draft, that would regulate short-term vacation rentals with regard to building occupancy, safety, and other aspects.

The meeting is set for 4 p.m. at the Walton County Courthouse, with live stream video to be provided and ZOOM participation available.

Short Term Rental Ordinance

While on the Sept. 14 agenda for discussion, the proposed Short Term Rental Ordinance will not be presented on that date for action by the BCC. According to Kristen Shell, county planning manager, county staff are still in the process of drafting the ordinance and will be seeking BCC direction on the draft.

According to the agenda item: “Short Term Vacation Rental Ordinance – Update and request to hold public workshops and solicit public feedback on draft alternatives. The proposed ordinance may address short term rental occupancy, parking and building life safety requirements among other regulatory requirements. Planning can be contacted for drafts.”

In July, the BCC had called for creation of the ordinance as a way to address neighborhood impacts and problems associated with large short-term rental homes. 

Scooter ordinance

To apply to rentals of the small stand-up electric scooters, the 20+-page Walton County Motorized Scooter Ordinance would set up a pilot program for rental of these scooters and would allow the county to determine whether an ongoing rental program could be implemented in a way that does not negatively impact the public’s health, safety and welfare.

The ordinance would allow electric scooters and other micromobility devices on bike and pedestrian paths, sidewalks, trails and greenways in Walton County as long as they were used as required by state law. They would be prohibited from being left unattended on these facilities.

Other requirements for use on the paths, etc., would be for riders to yield to slower-moving pedestrians, to conduct themselves “in a reasonable and safe manner,” per the draft ordinance, and to travel at 15 miles per hour or less or the posted speed.

As proposed, the pilot program would be known as the Walton County Motorized Scooter Pilot Share Program. It would require a permit in order for any company to rent out scooters, with permits to be issued by Walton County.

The ordinance provides for Walton County to issue a motorized scooter permit to a rental operator through a competitive selection process, with the county to have the option to issue permits to one or more operators.

The pilot program would continue for one year, with option to renew it in one-year increments, with the ability for the county to terminate the program at any time within a one-year term through the public hearing process.

Among the requirements for motorized scooters in the program would be location and tracking capability, always-on front and rear lights, maximum speed of 15 miles per hour, and a mandate for parking at designated corrals/stations, always in an upright position. Also required for scooters would be geo-fencing, a technology creating a boundary for scooter use and control of speed limit by means of software.

Permitted rental companies would be required to keep an office within the county with a full-time local manager to serve as a point of contact. There would be a requirement for the company to provide customer representatives 24-7 to address questions and concerns of the public.

Hours of operations for motorized scooters would be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. A company would not be able to rent to scooter users under the age of 18.

The county would be able to limit the number of scooters available for rental, with a minimum of 10 scooters to be provided initially at each rental station.

The ordinance would require damaged, non-working or illegally parked scooters to be removed within two hours of notice being provided to a permitted company, with the county able to confiscate any scooters not removed on a timely basis.

Scooters would have to be removed within 12 hours of notice from the county of a tropical storm or other emergency.

Scooters in the program would be required to be set up to operate only in areas as provided for in the company’s permit. They would not be allowed to be driven in any area designated for pedestrians only.

Only one rider would be allowed on a scooter.

Any violation of the ordinance would constitute a misdemeanor, with rental companies subject to fines ranging from $250 for the first offense to $1,000 for the third offense and permit revocation possible for more than six offenses within a 12-month period.

Fines for ordinance violations by scooter riders would range from $20 for the first offense to $60 for the third offense, with the ability for the county to request freezing of a third-time offender rider’s scooter rental account until a safety course is completed.

The draft Scooter Ordinance had not been finalized as of Sept. 7. Plans are for it to be available prior to the Sept. 14 BCC meeting and posted on the Walton County website, www.co.walton.fl.us under the Planning and Development Department Section and “Mobility Plan.”

According to Shell, the revised version of the ordinance is to include a requirement for geofencing to disable scooters in the Grayton Beach Neighborhood Plan area.