By DOTTY NIST
There is to be no vending this year on Walton County’s newly-acquired San Roy Road property, while beachgoers will still be able to enjoy this 2.74-acre beachfront property at the Eastern Lake outfall.
This was the decision of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) at its Jan. 25 regular meeting when the BCC was asked for direction on whether to include the property in the Walton County Managed Beach Vendor (MBV) Program. The meeting was at the South Walton Annex.
Generally in use at public regional beach accesses and neighborhood beach accesses with 70 feet of beachfront or more, the MBV program operates through a concession services agreement that provides for a beach attendant at each access to work directly with beachgoers renting beach chairs and umbrellas to set up the equipment for their use when they arrive and remove it from the beach when they leave.
Asked about including the San Roy Road property that had been acquired at the end of December in the MBV program, the commissioners discussed the fact that there are no bathrooms for the property nor any parking associated with it.
District 2 Commissioner Danny Glidewell pointed out that the county had owned the property for less than 30 days and that there were not yet even any conceptual plans for the beach access.
Glidewell said he thought the BCC should give Brian Kellenberger, Walton County beach operations director, at least a year before the property is included in the MBV program, while noting that this had been a successful program. The year’s time was to allow for plans to be drawn up and public input taken on the use of the property.
Walton County Code Compliance Director Tony Cornman was in agreement, asking if it would be possible to exclude the San Roy Road property from the MBV program for the year and schedule a public workshop on the property later in the year.
Glidewell spoke in support of doing that and made a motion to proceed in that manner, with his motion getting a second.
Included with the motion, per Cornman’s request, was the removal of the West Allen Loop access from the MBV program. Cornman had recommended doing so because there had been only 342 equipment rentals at that location for the previous year. He commented that it was not cost effective to have a beach attendant at the access seven days a week considering the low number of rentals.
Regarding the San Roy Road property, Glidewell clarified that “we intend” to include the property in the MBV program in the future once it is ready. He highlighted what would be a concern for him if the parcel were opened for vending at this time, the possibility of the roadway being blocked by vendor vehicles.
He noted that in years past, especially on the western side of Eastern Lake, vendors had pulled up in the road and blocked people from being able to get out from their property.
Addressing the commissioners, Brian Kellenberger asked if the motion not to include the San Roy Road property in the MBV program would mean that a vendor zone would instead be set up on the property. He recommended against that course of action.
Vendor zones had been in use before the MBV program was implemented and are still the practice for the smaller neighborhood beach accesses with less than 70 feet of beachfront. With vendor zones, vendors are limited to 50 percent of the beach access area, which they often take up with chair and umbrella set-ups.
Cornman was in agreement with Kellenberger in recommending against a vendor zone on the property, saying that in his opinion, “we should just have it open to the public for this year.”
District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson disagreed, speaking about short-term rentals in the area of the property and people from those rentals who would be coming to the beach on the San Roy Road property and would not want to bring their own chairs to the beach. He was in favor of, during the next few BCC meetings, talking about allowing vending to supply that need in advance of spring break 2022.
Glidewell acknowledged that the people in the nearby rental condominiums would want to use the beach at the San Roy Road property and said that they would be welcome to do so. “All we’re saying is that we’re not going to let the vendors down there,” he said.
Glidewell explained that if vendors blocked the road in the vicinity of the property, Kellenberger and Cornman would be the ones who would be blamed, even though it would not be their fault.
He emphasized that not one parking place had yet been provided for the property nor any other plans implemented and called for such issues to be worked out before allowing vending on the San Roy Road property.
With Glidewell’s motion still on the floor, two members of the public addressed the commissioners via ZOOM, both asking for vending to be available to beachgoers on the property.
Voicing thanks to the commissioners for their having acquired the San Roy Road property, Brian Greenwald pointed out the many short-term rental units in the vicinity of the property, not only in the condominium development but in nearby houses, that have already been booked for spring and summer guests. He did not see a reason why, before more permanent plans for the property are developed, the renters should not be able to walk to the beach and have a vendor bring a chair and umbrella set-up for their use.
Also addressing the commissioners, Robert Rendzio, homeowners’ association president of the nearby 120-unit Beachside Villas condominium, also expressed thanks for the San Roy Road property purchase. With the expectation of people from the Beachside Villas units and others in the community coming to the beach on the property, Rendzio asked the commissioners to consider allowing vending in some fashion on the property, including possibly by going ahead with including it in the MBV program.
“I would ask that we not wait ‘til 2023, til’ when everything is perfect, because nothing is ever perfect..,” Rendzio urged.
With a vote taken on Glidewell’s motion, it was approved unanimously.
Contacted on Jan. 26, Cornman clarified that per the BCC decision no vending would be allowed on the San Roy Road property this year. He explained that vending would continue at the West Allen Loop access with the access being removed from the MBV program and a vending zone assigned to the property.