Stop work order issued on unpermitted land clearing/removal of native live oaks [PREMIUM]

CUT LIVE OAK trees and vegetation recently cleared without a permit in Seagrove. (Walton County Code Compliance photo)

By DOTTY NIST

A stop work order and a notice of violation have been issued in connection with unpermitted clearing and removal of old native oak trees from property in Seagrove. 

On May 3, Walton County Code Compliance officers visited property at 3005 CR-30A in Seagrove. This was after citizens contacted the department with concerns about clearing and tree removal on the site.

The officers found that 100-year-old live oak trees had been taken down during clearing activity on the site, which was the former location for the 723 Whiskey Bravo and Cowgirl Kitchen restaurants. The property is located on the north side of CR-30A and east of Gardenia Street.

The officers also determined that the site was being cleared without required county permits.

A stop work order was posted, and a notice of violation was issued, to property owner Coastal Custom Homebuilding of Madsonville, La.

On March 24, 2021, Coastal Custom Homebuilding had purchased the property, which consists of a portion of lots 2, 3, 4, and 5 and all of lots 6 and 7, block 12 Seagrove 3rd Addition, according to Walton County Property Appraiser’s records. Sellers were Jerry L. Moore Jr. and Victoria Moore of 5 Moore Properties, L.L.C.

An official report on the code enforcement case indicates that upon inspection of the site Walton County Code Compliance personnel contacted Mac Carpenter, Walton County planning and development services director, about the clearing and tree removal.

Carpenter did not respond to a request by the Herald/Breeze for comment. However the code enforcement report states, “Contacted Mac on speaker phone with owner and Mac advised they were not OK to clear trees. Through discussion with Mac at planning they are able to clean up what they had cleared but nothing else until permits were given.”

The stop work order and notice of violation charge the property owner with violation of two sections of the Walton County Land Development Code (LDC). The first of those, Section 1.13.00, Development Approvals, prohibits the undertaking of development activity without a permit.

The second, Section 1.13.09(E), sets forth Walton County rules for clearing permits, land clearing and alteration clearing and grading permits, removal of vegetation, excavation, grading and earthwork construction. 

For property south of the bay, Section 1.13.09(E) requires a building permit or development order before any land clearing or alteration is to take place. This is due to many properties south of the bay being subject to vegetative protection associated with native plant communities, buffers in connection with wetlands and water bodies, and development agreements.

According to the Walton County Building Department, no building permit had been obtained by Coastal Custom Homebuilding for the 3005 CR-30A property.

Walton County Planning and Development Services records indicate that pre-application paperwork had been completed on a minor development application to construct five single-family residential lots on the property adjacent to the 723 Whiskey Bravo restaurant, following an October 21, 2020 pre-application conference. However, the records do not indicate final approval of the minor development application or issuance of a development order for such a project.

Tree or vegetation removal, clearing, or other development activity that is undertaken without the appropriate permit or permits may result in fines and/or a requirement for site restoration.

Both the stop work order and the notice of violation issued state: “You have 30 days to come into compliance with this ordinance in order to avoid further action.” The documents also note, “Any person, firm or corporation which violates, disobeys, neglects, or refuses to comply with or resists the enforcement of any of the provisions of this ordinance shall be punishable by fines up to $500 per day beyond the correction period.”

Violations that are not successfully addressed within the time period allowed for compliance may be brought before a special magistrate at a Walton County Code Enforcement hearing.