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Property Managers working for fair regulation:​ Walton County STR Regulation

Last Updated: February 11, 2023

People sitting together with sunshine coming through window

Walton County, FL, has seen exponential growth over the past few years – both in residential and in business sectors. Short term rentals, also referred to as vacation rentals, are one of the hottest trends along Florida’s Emerald Coast. 

This thread is meant to keep folks updated on the efforts of local property managers who are working diligently to ensure our voices are heard – we want fair and enforceable regulation. We also live, eat, and play in these same communities as our visitors and other concerned locals. 

County Website link for STR Updates:

Walton County STR Playbook for Property Managers and Owners (still under construction):

Walton County STR Website for Property Managers and Owners (still under construction):

The STR Ordinance is up next week in front of the BCC for a final hearing. If approved, this will go in effect this year. Please, please, please get involved. Share this meeting. Be present and please speak (if you feel comfortable) for the public comment section. This is our last chance, my friends. Let’s be kind, factual, and bold – we need to protect the very thing we love: our short term rental industry.

Email from Kristen in Planning:
The final reading for the Short Term Rental Ordinance is scheduled for January 24, 2023 at 9:00 AM in the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
The draft is essentially the same as the first reading draft (October 27, 2022 draft). There is some clarification regarding multi family buildings, with multi family units under common management clarified as exempt. The Walton County Land Development Code defines multi-family as having greater than 3 or 4 or more units in the same building. There have been many questions on this so hopefully this will help.
This ordinance attempts to capture the life-safety requirements for short term rentals found in current Florida Administrative Code, which are additional requirements specific to short term rentals that one and two family units (single and duplex units).  All short term vacation rental units in any building type must follow the building codes requirements related to life safety whether or not they are a short term rental. The following is a quick summary of what these codes require:
  • The Florida Residential Code (this is a building code that the County uses for construction permitting and inspections) governs single family units and duplexes up to three stories.
  • The Florida Building Code (again used by the County for construction permitting and inspections) governs ANYTHING over four stories AND sprinkler systems are required. This includes single family and would include STRs.
  • Any triplex building (3 unit) or multifamily building over three units is governed by the Florida Building Code. If such units are 3 stories or more, a sprinkler system is required.  This would include STRs.

I don’t have any official updates yet, but wanted to toss a few things out in the air. If you hear of anything, please let me know!
  • Still no date set for going back in front of the BCC. 
  • The below links caught my attention and feel it’s worth paying attention to. If I remember correctly, this is how the City of Destin tried sneaking in STR codes originally a few years back: 
  • No updates since WCSO and a Commissioner held a public vendor meeting last fall.
  • No updates other than we have a new Destin mayor. I would love eyes/ears over there as I understand Bobby is very active and wants to fix things & work with the locals. It’s only a matter of time before short term rentals get put in the spotlight over there again. Just need to make sure we don’t fall asleep at the wheel.
Scammers are on the rise, booking our condos/homes and getting free vacations. Would any of you want to set up a meeting to brainstorm/share information? Until tech steps up to the plate, this is a huge manual strain on our companies. If you don’t even know what I’m referring to, then you absolutely need to come to the meeting (my company got scammed 3 times in the last 6 months, only 1 successful).
The ordinance passed and will be up for final hearing in the next few months.

We have movement! The STR proposed ordinance is back in front of the BCC next week for another first hearing. If approved, it will move to the Nov BCC meeting for a final hearing (and possible implementation). 
I’d love any support you could offer by attending the meeting and speaking up to ensure we have fair regulation. I am supposed to be in a training class that day, so I will need to see if this can be an excused absence or not – my chances don’t look good. I may reach out to a couple of you directly if I cannot be in attendance.
When: 10/27/2022 9a CT
 842 FL-20 Unit 110, Freeport, FL 32439
In other newsThe WCSO/Commissioner Barker LSV meeting went well yesterday. I’m sure I take things a bit personal sometimes, but I felt a bit of animosity in the room when I kept hearing “all the rental companies and owners” were the main source of the problem. I did speak up and tried to bring clarity to professional property managers versus direct Owners. A lot of ideas were tossed around, and from my understanding, a county attorney is working with WCSO and Commissioner Barker as far as what legal options the county has to create an ordinance. Walton plans to work with Okaloosa to see if they might be able to share similar policies, so this can possibly affect you if you operate next door. I’ll keep you all posted back on the original thread when I know more. If any of you hear any updates, please let me know. 
Quick question: Last week, I saw (after the fact) that Bobby Wagner, City of Destin Mayor candidate, held a town hall to discuss Crystal Beach and short term rentals. If any of you attended, can you please get with me to give me the scoop? For all Okaloosa operators, we need to be paying attention over there as well now, too.
Government regulation isn’t going anywhere. Let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride together. I appreciate, from the very bottom of my heart, all of you who have been active, both in front of and behind the scenes – it doesn’t go unnoticed.

We have action  – please be aware:

When: WED 9/14/22 4pm CT
Freeport Board Room – 842 FL-20 Unit 110, Freeport, FL 32439

Kristen’s update 9/8/22: 
The revised proposed Short Term Vacation Rental Ordinance is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission on September 14 (Wednesday), 2022. Please note the revised schedule for this meeting. I have attached the draft as well as the proposed ordinance related to single family residential stormwater. These two ordinances should be considered together and will travel together to the upcoming Planning Commission meeting as well as to the Board of County Commissioners meetings, potentially in October. This is a revised version from the one I sent out previously with some typo corrections etc, however, no substantive changes.

We’ve definitely given time for neighbors to tune in. Your continued participation to ensure fair regulation is provided is crucial to our future success with government regulation. I recently spoke to some CO PM’s who also said, “they’ll never regulate us”, and the things they are facing right now are business-threatening. Let’s continue to work as a united front… because this is only the beginning of a long journey, my friends!

I received the email below from Kristen in Planning this week:

Good afternoon, please find the latest revision to the proposed Short Term Vacation Rental ordinance. The following is a summary of the changes included in this draft:

  • Removes the 4,800 sq ft review process for Residential Preservation and Conservation Residential zoning districts, all projects are as is today at the Building Plans Review level
  • Amends the required parking ratio for both permanent residences and short term rentals (same ratio for both) in South Walton only – standard is increased to one space per 900 square feet for both in south Walton only  and parking is prohibited in the side setback yards for the entire County
  • Keeps the parking ratio the same for north Walton for permanent residences (we have less short term rentals and maintaining the cost of housing delivery is desirable), new STRs in north Walton have to meet the 1 space per 900 sq ft ratio
  • Permanent resident conversions to STRs will have to reduce occupancy based on available parking, reduce the number of vehicles to the rental based on available parking (on street parking is prohibited), or add more parking- these option are important as some units will not be able to add more parking due to DO, site, stormwater or other constraints. In order to maintain statutory compliance where STRs are not outright prohibited, the options are necessary
  • All life safety, advertising, responsible party, unit postings (internal and external) ,and certificate requirements remain the same
  • Revisions to the single family residential stormwaterordinance are also in motion that look at different stormwater requirements by ISR

I do not currently have a meeting schedule but will send an update when this has been determined.

I wanted to offer a few updates for you:
When I asked Kristen this week for an update on the STR ordinance, this was her response:
“As of now, I am planning to make some edits and bring this forward with our proposed changes to the single family stormwater ordinance. This will be late September. The Stormwater ordinance will go to the PC in early September and have a first reading with this ordinance. Of course this is subject to change but this is [the] plan right now.”
Should I see or hear that this will be brought back up again sooner, I will let you know. If you don’t hear from me, and you get different news, please let me know. I’m extremely confused at where this is at now. 
Be well. Hope you all are catching a little break before Fall Break greets us.

My heart was happy, happy, happy this morning <3 When I don’t have a place to sit, I’m literally full of excitement. 

For those who could not attend: the STR ordinance was “tabled” and is going back to Hearing 1 after the Commissioners review some items with Kristen. Commissioner Glidwell/Anderson want to increase the max sq ftg from 4800 to 6000, and Glidewell addressed his concern with the $500 fee. No public comments were made today from either side regarding the STR Ordinance. I believe (don’t quote me), this will be placed on the BCC calendar as a special meeting. While public comments may be on the schedule, they don’t intend for this to be a “workshop”. I believe our involvement will still be critical at this meeting as well…

Today’s “tabling” of the ordinance gives you more opportunity to chat with Commissioners if you haven’t already. I’ll be following up with those whose schedule I was unable to hop on in July to see if I can catch their ear in the next couple of weeks.

As always, if/when I hear anything, you all will be the first to know. 

In other newsGOLF CARTS were brought up, specifically in reference to STR Owners and VR companies who include them with their rentals. I believe we will need to be involved in this ordinance/chain of events as well. If you would like to meet and chat about this, I’m happy to set up a group meeting. Similar to the rental ordinance, I believe us having consistent messaging and educating on what we do may be helpful.

WCSO golf cart stickers ARE IN!!! You may pick them up from the South 331 WCSO Station adjacent to the Annex where the meeting was today. Sgt Wendel has also added more stock of flyers if you want to grab any for your offices/rentals. These can all be picked up during normal business hours, no appointment needed.

Thank you all who could be there <3 A crowded room means we care. I couldn’t be prouder to call you all my STR family. Chat soon again.

Attached is the most recent draft ordinance the Planning Department is working off of that will go in front of the BCC on July 26th.

What happens next?

  • The first hearing was held on June 27, 2022. There was one public comment made regarding the STR ordinance.
  • On July 26, 2022, at 9a in South Walton Annex, the BCC will host the second hearing. If approved, my understanding is that the ordinance will be taken for a final vote in August for implementation.
    • If you have any public comment to make, it needs to be made at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting schedule will be released sometime today on the County website (and typically on their FB page).
    • If someone speaks during public comment, and you agree with what they say, please still pop up to the box, say your name, and simply confirm that you agree with XYZ person. Do not feel the need to repeat what was just said, however showing your (1) support and (2) respecting the County Commissioner’s time is highly respected >> this was advice given to me directly from a CC this week.

I have been able to speak with a couple of the Commissioners. I don’t want to put words in someone’s mouth, but from my interactions with them, I can tell you they are willing to listen. We need everyone to speak their concerns, and possibly, just quite possibly, we’ll get backing. Commissioners aren’t going to fight this for us, however with proper education and fact-sharing, I believe we can promote some adjustments to this ordinance that you all would like to see, even beyond what we discussed in our meetings.  

We can make movement, but it is going to require us all working together as a team. 

I look forward to seeing each and every one of you next week on the 26th. I know the concerned neighbors will be there. Please don’t leave me alone in the room with all of them 🙂

There unfortunately were not many STR industry representatives at the BCC meeting on June 27, but I’m so, so thankful for the few that did show up. As we heard, it’s very important we’re present and participating. I was able to snag 3 minutes of the Commissioner’s time. Interestingly, they said they hadn’t really heard from many (actually any) small STR businesses. I’ll step back up on my preaching box for just a moment and remind you all that it is crucial we are ALL having conversations with our commissioners. I cannot represent thousands of rentals on my own. I know some other companies have been involved, and I’m very grateful to you each for investing in this advocacy for fair regulation. It takes a village, my friends. This is only the beginning of government control [insert scary music]. They are listening; are we talking???
With that said, unfortunately, the ordinance is moving along. The ordinance should be up for a second and final reading on July 26, 2022 (last update I received from Kristen). You already know what I’m going to tell you 🙂
Till I see you all next, stay vigilant. Please, for the love of tourism, reach out to your County Commissioners. Oh, and stay sane running your hospitality businesses!

It seems like there were a few changes in this newest draft. Please reply if there was anything concerning to you. For me, it was that in the rental agreement, we now have to provide (1) parking limitation – which I’m fine with and (2) the sketch of where folks can/cannot park – which I’m not fine with. This requirement was already in there as a requirement for the in-property posting, but adding a diagram to a rental agreement sounds a bit odd to me. 
Here are my gathered notes from our Seascape meeting last week: 
1. Define occupancy (per Kristen’s verbal comments to me) as at any time period, not just overnight. While I understand we don’t want to give government more to play with, collectively, our group agreed that us all understanding the definition of how timing plays into occupancy will allow us to communicate policies better to guests and set clearer expectations. If this is confusing, imagine a restaurant. Their occupancy is 100 at any time. Never more, no matter the situation. Same goes for our homes. Can’t throw a party at 2p or 10p. 
2. We all need to be vigilantly involved in ongoing LDC changes and proposals from this point forward. As many others have experienced, when government gets involved in regulation, it can tend to snowball. We need to watch future zoning changes and any other items that may fall before Planning and/or BCC that could affect our industry.
3. Responsible Party. We all agreed that it’s important to us that a responsible party can be (1) a company and not an individual – thinking of constant staff changes we all feel and (2) PMs can register in lieu of Owners – after all, they hire us to do the paperwork and such. We all know what will happen if an Owner has to fill out their own papers. || Response time has been moved down to 1 hour in this most recent draft. I, personally, don’t love this as it can take me an hour+ to get from SRB to Miramar Beach in traffic. My stance will be to push this back up to 2 hours to allow me the proper time to respond; we must keep in mind that there are small, responsible property managers in this industry that don’t have large teams of 20-100 employees. That shouldn’t (and doesn’t) make me any less professional and put me at higher risk to be in violation.
4. Required Postings. I am still not comfortable with the address of the Responsible Party having to be listed on anything. For those in attendance at our Seascape meeting, you heard why. It’s not a requirement in Destin, serves no purpose for emergency response, and is a violation of my privacy. I do agree in providing the name and phone number of course. 
5. If you aren’t already doing so, please find a way to implement reminders to your guests regarding trash. This is one of the hottest topics, and we know the pains of a guest who doesn’t take trash out for a week. The more proactive we can be in communicating clear expectations to guests, the better this little world will spin.
6. Building Sign. Our group chatted about either (1) matching the sign requirement with that of Destin’s (see section Sec. 13-114. – Posting of signage) or (2) following the Walton County sign ordinance (falls under Ground sign, residential, I assume?!) already in existence. The attached links take you to the websites so you can compare the difference. I believe our stance was to push for the later, but I’m all ears if others think differently. || Note that in newest draft, we must now record the STVR Certificate Number (need to make sure this is a sticker provided by the county and a set size for us to design our signs around).
7. Battery powered emergency lighting. I haven’t heard of anyone in support of this. Guys, we REALLY need EVERYONE’S help in providing reasons why this should be removed from the ordinance (and perhaps other than “they are ugly”). I know we throw around using the 69A-43 F.A.C. — please be sure you have read through all of this to understand what it includes (weekly smoke detector testing, emergency lighting requirement, providing an evacuation pamphlet to renters, etc.)
8. Trash. I still have a very, very big issue with us not being allowed to put trash out until the day of pick up. Trash comes at 6am, sometimes 8, sometimes 10… I am suggesting Walton follow Destin’s policy: “No garbage container shall be located at the curb for pickup before 12:00 p.m. of the day prior to pick up…” 
9. Advertising. Note that we will now be required to list the STVR Certificate Number AND the TDT Registration Number on all advertising.
I believe that’s all – please let me know if I missed anything. Hopefully from all my emails and our meetings you all feel confident in talking points. 
Join Walton County’s hottest meeting of the year:
When: MONDAY June 27th @ 9am CT
Where: South Walton Annex Board Room – 31 Coastal Centre Blvd, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Game Plan: BCC meeting. If this ordinance is approved at this BCC meeting, it will go for final vote in July and be enacted. Time. Is. Now. 
What I need from you (still… only one PM has responded):
If you are willing to publicly share any community involvement your business has in Walton County, please respond (DO NOT REPLY ALL!) with details. We need stories. Does your team sponsor a school baseball team? Do you donate to a local non-profit (money or food)? Anything. Everything. Give me your good PR that I can wrap into a package to show our positive footprint.

I just received the email below from Kristen – also, see attachments. I have not had a moment to look at this. I’ll review in the next 24 hours and reply with anything I see concerning as well as the notes from our meeting back on 6/15/22 in Seascape. We are last on the BCC schedule on 6/27/22:


“I have attached the version of the Walton County Short Term Rental Certification and Neighborhood Compatibility Ordinance that will heard by the Board of County Commissioners next Monday June 27, 2022 at 9:00 A.M. in the South Walton Annex Boardroom. This is the first reading of the ordinance and a second and final reading is tentatively scheduled for July 26, 2022. This second reading date could change based on Board direction received during Monday’s meeting.

 There are some changes in this version that are new, specifically exempting rental units in which the owner lives in full time and clarifications to the inspections language. This draft also includes the changes recommended by the Planning Commission and changes recommended after legal review. Additional changes to the ordinance may or may not result from Monday’s meeting.”

I have scheduled a space in Seascape for us to meet next week. I need everyone to RSVP if you will be there or need to cancel so we can ensure the correct number of chairs are placed.

Our next meeting will be:
When: WED June 15 from 8a – 10a CT
Where: Seascape Conference Room –  556 Seascape Dr, Miramar Beach, FL 32550 (Directions: when pulling into the Resort from Highway 98, let the guard gate know you are coming for the meeting at the Conference Room. Drive forward. You’ll pass by the golf course and go through the stop sign. There is a medium-sized parking lot on the corner, across from Ariel Dunes 1 & 2. . . normally bikes are out there as well. Park in that lot and walk into the small building.)
Game Plan: Review newest draft & changes. Gather a cohesive stance before the June 27 BCC meeting. 

I have 2 corrections for everyone:

#1, from Kristen at Planning: 
The draft ordinance is tentatively scheduled to have a first reading before the Board of County Commissioners on MONDAY June 27, 2022 (not June 28) at the regularly scheduled meeting held in the South Walton Annex. This is a first reading; it will be advertised correctly and heard again at a second advertised meeting potentially in July, pending the outcome of the June 27, 2022 meeting. Both meetings will be held in South Walton.

#2, our meet up:
TBD date and location. I thought I had edited my original email but it seems outlook had a different plan and didn’t save my changes before sending. I would never, never sacrifice the weekend of Memorial Day for such. My apologies. I’m going to aim for June 8 (not May 29) and promise to get details out ASAP.

We have some updates! As you all are all aware, on 4/14/22, the Planning Commission approved the ordinance with the following (2) suggestions to be changed:

  1. Requiring an on-premise sign with the emergency contact phone number
  2. Reducing the required response time for the locally available responsible party from two hours to one hour (will be presented to the BCC as a recommendation from the Planning Commission) >>This means you now have 1 hour to get to your Vacation Rental (instead of 2) otherwise, you could face TBD penalties!

Attached is a release of the newest draft ordinance the Planning Department is working off of. Please review and make your notes for our next meeting. What do you like? Not like? Can’t live with?

What happens next?

  • The above draft is tentatively scheduled to have a first reading before the Board of County Commissioners on June 28, 2022 at the regularly scheduled meeting held in the South Walton Annex >> If this is approved, it will go to a second reading before voting to pass
  • Planning Department is continuing to work through implementation and is preparing a financial analysis of this program that will be presented to the BCC along with the proposed ordinance.

 In case you haven’t  heard me preaching from the rooftop lately, THE TIME IS NOW (not later…)

What I need from youIf you are willing to publicly share any community involvement your business has in Walton County, please respond (DO NOT REPLY ALL!) with details. We need stories. Does your team sponsor a school baseball team? Do you donate to a local non-profit (money or food)? Anything. Everything. Give me your good PR that I can wrap into a package to show our positive footprint.

I wanted to catch you all up to speed on our continued advocacy for fair regulation in Walton County. Please keep in mind these are my personal opinions/suggestions only:

1. We all need to be working off of the 2nd draft of DRAFT 2 which was released on 2/14/22. This was prior to the Planning Commission’s meeting and does not include their edits, however it is the most up-to-date posted document available to the public: 
2. If you have any detailed questions/comments/concerns about this draft, please email or set up a meeting with Kristen Shell from the Planning Department. I, along with another STR operator, personally met with her this week. She’s very open to our suggestions, especially when they make sense for compliance and true change in our neighborhoods.
3. The current plan is that Kristen will continue morphing this draft and will present to the BCC on 5/10/22 (location/time not announced yet). If you have overall feedback on the ordinance, this will be the meeting to attend. If you are a larger company and cannot personally be there, please, please send a representative from your agency. Once these things get to the BCC, we can expect to see more concerned neighbors. If we slack off, our efforts in advocating for fair regulation could fail us. 
4. Reach out to your Commissioners and have discussions with them. They are the final deciding factor on this ordinance. You can find all contact details for each Commissioner here:
5. Behind the scenes, I have continued to meet with WCSO, the Fire Dept and Emergency Management. We have a team of people with great resources who are willing to help us with guest education resources. In order to make sure the correct resources are provided, I really need everyone’s help in filling out this survey ASAP:
At this time, unless I receive responses that we need to meet sooner, I don’t feel that our stance has changed. If I find a release of another draft that would cause concern, you’ll be the first to know. What’s most important now is each and every one of you reaching out to Kristen and your Commissioners. 
With that in mind, I invite you all to attend FAVR’s Regional Spring Forum event on 5/3/22 in Sandestin. If you can’t come all day, come half a day. This is a fabulous networking event which I’ll plan to cover updates on the STR ordinance efforts both during opening and closing sessions. 
Thanks for all each of you do – for being involved and standing up to protect our industry. This is a long path of regulation we are heading down – we’re seeing it all across the state and nation. Please don’t think one of us is strong enough to face this fight alone. You are all appreciated and needed more than you know.

During the 4/14/22 meeting, the Planning Commission approved the ordinance with the following proposed changes:

  1. Requiring and on premise sign with the emergency contact phone number (included in this draft)
  2. Reducing the required response time for the locally available responsible party from two hours to one hour (will be presented to the BCC as a recommendation from the Planning Commission)

I have a few updates:

1. Please see attached pdf flyer provided by Walton County Sheriff’s Office. They have asked that we include this document anywhere we can in the booking process. Sergeant Wendel with WCSO also has postcards that he can provide if you prefer to leave a hard copy in your rental properties. You can contact Sgt. Wendel at (850) 200-5143 if you would like to get a stack of postcards from him. Justin Shane has made contact with the Visitor’s Center to see if they can aid in other forms of advertising. It is our privilege to operate in Walton County; it is our duty to promote safe tourism. Please participate in some fashion. 

2. We have dates released by the County and need to act quickly. On April 14th, the Planning Commission will meet in regards to the STR ordinance. This ordinance will require PC recommendation and then two hearings before the BCC tentatively in May and June pending any major revision or rescheduling of hearings. No STR legislation made it out of this year’s legislative session.

3. [NOT YET COMPLETED] The Florida Alliance for Vacation Rentals (FAVR) is drafting a letter that we can present to the BCC and Planning Department, along with all of our signatures (and all the industry friends you are going to invite to sign it). This letter will collectively represent our stance on the ordinance: what we can survive with / our suggestions for clarification / compliance / etc. Please stay tuned for this letter…

4. WHAT YOU CAN DO: From this point, we really need the BCC listening to our stories. They hear from the neighbors; they see the comments/photos from the upset citizens. Do they hear from the operators? The good actors? If not, let’s change that. I’m not suggesting anyone be defensive, but there are things in this ordinance that (1) need clarification or (2) need to be revised/rethought. I’ve collected our group’s thoughts from the past 2 meetings in this Google doc to share with you. Please review, take any points you want to use, and email/call your county commissioners BEFORE APRIL 14. We need our unified voices to be heard! 

I suspect we will re-group the week of April 18 or 25, after the April 14th Planning Commission meeting. As always, if anyone feels the need to meet sooner, please let me know, and I’ll do my very best to coordinate the gathering of minds. 

We had a productive meeting today. I’m so thankful for those of you who could join us and surely missed others who had prior obligations. The momentum is forward-moving and positive. 

Recap from our meeting: 
  • Sergeant Mark Wendel from WCSO spoke to us about the PCB incidents and Destin take-overs. Please report any suspicious activity to WCSO/OCSO and feel free to reach out with any concerns you may have as an operator. They are here to help. We’ll hopefully see Sgt. Wendel at future meetings as this is a very important relationship to have, and he shared some invaluable insight with us. He also has some postcard-size fliers available regarding safety as well as golf cart stickers. We need to do our part and help with guest-education. This is step 1.
  • Brian Kellenberger, Dir. of Beach Operations and interim TDC Director, also joined us. He had great advice and words of encouragement to our group in continuing to advocate for fair regulation.
  • The group of property managers and a self-operator Owner had a great walk through of the 2nd Draft Ordinance. We took each section item-by-item (similar to our last meeting) and discussed advantages and concerns. From here, I will be populating all of our comments to each section. We are waiting to hear back from the Planning Dept on their next steps so we can plan how we need to move forward, but the idea will be that we will formulate a response letter and have it signed by as many Property Managers/Owners/Operators as we can. We need to come together as a unified voice. 
Important advice passed our way:
  • Don’t bring emotions into this. Keep things factual. 
  • Communicate with your BCC members. We all need to be contacting them to discuss our businesses and the local neighbors. I think we can all learn a lot from each other but it takes us having conversations. Start an email now and stay in contact with these local officials.
  • We have more residents in our area moving here permanently. With that comes a resistance to tourism. It happens. We need to ensure we are being good neighbors, giving back to our communities, and staying in the conversation. Proactive not reactive. 
Please keep your eyes peeled for another email from me very soon. I hope by then we’ll know Planning Dept’s next plans, have a letter representing our voice and this proposed ordinance, and our planned next steps/meeting invite. 

Happy Thursday, Everyone! The 2nd draft to the ordinance has been posted: There is also a summary that indicates what’s applicable to current versus new builds. Looks like we have quite a bit to chat about if any of us want to see changes. 

How big of a voice can we represent? There are still a lot of property managers not seeing/participating. Please share, share, share this update. THIS IS REAL!  
In other news, the County is also discussing adding yet another tax to help with infrastructure:

The 1:30 public workshop with the TDC and Planning Department  surrounding Walton County STR Ordinance was a packed house. Different opinions were spoken, and for those of you who didn’t attend, I strongly urge you to join the pack next time. What some of these neighbors have to say is mind-blowing. We have some serious issues/operators we need to address. Now on the flip side, our voice is louder than ever, and I believe we are on the right track forward with data-driven, fact-finding answers. 
Here’s my recap:
  • If an ordinance is going to be established, it will have 3 public workshops. Everyone needs to stay eyes and ears open that nothing slips by us, so we can all be present and help in this process. 
  • The County is very aware of what’s going on at the state level. If you aren’t, reach out to FAVR (Florida Alliance for Vacation Rentals). They send updates out as changes are being made to the proposed bills — the things they are talking about at the state level WILL HAVE an impact on each and every one of us. If you aren’t paying attention, you need to be. 
  • Planning Department has hinted several times of “self regulation”. I firmly believe the more we do and show we are doing, and continuously, not just today, we will win this battle… by win = get our chance at fair regulation. 
  • Residents seemed to really like zoning, the idea of roll-out policies for anything we don’t like, controlling parking and occupancy.
  • Residents don’t like homes can be grandfathered in.
  • “Over tourism” is real >>> how do we convert this to “Tourism Management” ??? 
  • I really tried to push a thought shift of “WE” versus “I” in the meeting. I personally feel we need to continue this vibe. We are part of the community. We are neighbors, too. We care about Walton County.
Here’s where I understand things to be headed:
  • The Planning Department is going to release a 2nd draft in the near future. No idea when. If you see it, please send it to me. If I see it, you know I’ll share with you all. I’ll plan to have a meeting with STR operators right after it’s published. 
Here’s how you can help:
  • Keep talking to the County Commissioners, Planning Department, and TDC. Your voice matters. Every time someone new gets up and speaks, I jot down notes or send a little “Hallelujah!” in the air. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. Time to get squeaky folks. It’s Jan/Feb. Let’s do this now and not in June/July when we all forget our first names. 
  • I would love it if a couple people could help me with the website and digital guidebook that I made. I need brainpower and ideas more than anything else. I’m happy to complete the work myself. I possibly have TDC backing to take this information and help spread it along with other avenues. This isn’t going to take a lot of time. I just need a few people to take a few hours to sit down with me and knock this out so I can turn this over to the County/TDC/whomever…
  • If anyone is interested in meeting with myself and Jeff from Emergency Management, he has a brilliant idea of something he wants to create that would be helpful to all of us. I’d like to get this ball rolling. Same thing, I’ll need a few hours from you for a month or two. I really want to focus on this as this is a positive initiative we can take to show the BCC/Planning Department that we are being proactive. 

4 points to catch you up below…keeping it short and simple!

1) I wanted to make sure you all were aware of a meeting open to the public on January 28th. Please send someone from your team, or heck, send the entire gang! We need our representation here before this ordinance goes too far:

What? TDC Workshop Scheduled

When? January 28, 2022 at 1:30 PM

Where? South Walton Annex Board Room (31 Coastal Centre Boulevard, SRB)

2) There is also a survey the County is asking us all to fill out. This survey should not just be filled out by one person –  please share with your ENTIRE team. It does not ask for your name/business.

3) If you aren’t paying attention to what’s happening at the state level in regards to short term rental regulation, you should be. Email me back and we can catch you up to speed. Is it fun stuff to talk about and read through? No. Will it affect your business if its passes? 100%

4) In other news, I met with Sammy from the South Walton Fire District and Jeff from Emergency Management in late December. I think it’s wise that we try to set up a meeting with these gentlemen in February. They both have concerns about short term rentals, and very valid ones. No one wants to see STR go, but they have some great feedback of things we can do to help them (which in turn saves ourselves). I’ll see what I can get coordinated and keep you all posted. 

In regards to this ordinance, it seems many of us agree we don’t need it. It won’t help us solve the problems that truly exist. On the other side of the spectrum, a whole budget would need to occur for not only the registration back-end process, but also the compliance side of things – code compliance and for the SW Fire District to perform inspections. Currently, there is no budgeting for the influx of work and inspections they will have, and they, too, are plagued with short staffing issues already. We need to use this thought process to our advantage. “Can the county even manage an ordinance?”

That’s all for now – if any of you have been hard at work with other efforts, I’d love it if you shared. We’re only going to be successful if we work together! 

I want to give a huge shout out to those who joined me yesterday! It was a really productive meeting, and I’m excited to keep this momentum going. I also want to thank Visit South Walton for being so generous yet again and allowing us to meet in their board room.
Current problems we face:
  • The 2nd draft ordinance for short term vacation rental regulation is coming after the New Year. We still have no idea what’s in it, so this week’s meeting was to dive into the points one-by-one outlined in the 1st draft ordinance to see what we are willing to do/negotiate with, what doesn’t make sense, and most importantly, what could we contribute to the County?
  • Confusion of professional Owners | Property Managers | Contractors who only manage housekeeping/maintenance – no guest relations
  • Lack of education to property owners/managers and even guests 
Our group’s focus:
  • Sustainability
  • Fair Regulation
Meeting notes:
  • We went line-by-line through the 1st draft ordinance and discussed pros/cons, feasibility, enforcement, sustainability, etc. I have provided a link to the Google Doc so as not to bog down this email. If any of you have anything to add, please let me know. My goal is for us to all be “on the same page” as much as possible to be able to use the same talking points and have a cohesive voice.
  • Jilenna is going to talk to a concerned neighbor who has been at both public workshops and has influence over concerned neighbors to see if we can get a better understanding of what issues neighbors have. If this is a success, she may ask 1-2 of you to join her and a couple neighbors to chat intimately to learn their perspectives. 
  • This is a website that I have been working on. I want to build this out a bit more then eventually turn it over to the county for upkeep (after swapping it over to the domain I also purchased for it)… (Please don’t judge my web design skills; I’m more seasoned at operating rentals, not building websites :D)
  • This is a digital guidebook I have also been working on. I built this out to be mainly geared towards hosts but could certainly work for a guest-experience link as well if the County took over — this is purely a link/QR code that could be shared, no apps to download, no logins to keep up with. Seriously, cool stuff (in my humble opinion):
Next steps: 
  • INVITE, invite, invite as many property managers to this thread as you can. You can see I have moved us all to a CC list instead of BCC so you can see who’s already been receiving these notices vs. who may want to be included on the thread going forward. If you want your name taken off, please also let me know that. The group is growing, but we still need more brains!
  • I’ve reached out to Walton County Sheriff’s Office, South Walton Fire District, Emergency Management, and Code Enforcement to see if I can get on their schedule or invite them to a group meeting where we can learn about their struggles. If we better understand the actual issues, we can provide much more valuable input for solutions. Holidays are making schedules tight, but I’m trying to move on this as quickly as possible.
  • Any of you can take this information provided and begin reaching out to anyone you know in the neighborhood or at the BCC/in county seats to begin having conversations. Please document when/who you talk to so we can piece together our reach. I can push this momentum, but none of this is going to work unless we all take a stand and have conversations where it matters and to whom it matters as a collective voice. 

I know this is last minute notice, but most of you replied that early next week would be best, so we have settled on the following: 
What? VR Managers and Industry Partners meeting collectively to discuss regulation and what we can do as a united front to better represent our industry. This is meeting #2. 
When? MON 12/6 @ 2pm CT sharp (meeting should last roughly 2 hours max) >> We will start on-time so please plan your travel accordingly. The Visit South Walton Team has been SO KIND and gracious to offer us their space to meet. I want to remain respectful of this opportunity. If you can carpool, please do so. 
Where? Visit South Walton 331 boardroom (connected to the Visitor’s Center): 25777 US Hwy 331 South, SRB 32459
Please be prepared. (1) Read through the 1st draft ordinance and collect your thoughts on parking, noise, and trash (or any of the ideas presented in this draft ordinance) >> what are ways we can EFFECTIVELY find solutions to these problems? (2) Please also be prepared to share any good-will your company does in the area >> do you donate un-opened food items, volunteer at local fundraisers/non-profits? We need to get a list of things going ASAP.

1. A STR ordinance WILL BE COMING. When? After the Near Year. What will be in it? We still have no idea; honestly, we barely even discussed the actual ordinance today. 
2. The county is looking to tech platforms to help regulate us and our guests/the information we relay to our guests. It’s still a gray area if this will be required of us all to operate and if so, to what level we will have to police it. Lots of questions/concerns regarding what we saw today…so stay tuned. This would be applicable to single family homes in Walton County as well as if any HOAs want to…this could be very far reaching.
Where do we go from here? I’d really, really like to get another group meeting together before the holidays. I think it would be wise for us to come to the Planning Committee/BCC with our own resolution ideas of how we can self-regulate. If we don’t do this, they will put us all in the same box, and we all know how different our companies all are in consideration of staffing, technology, software, etc. 

Some of you may/may not be aware that Walton County is in the midst of passing an ordinance that will regulate short term rentals in our area. While I’m still uncertain how “scary” or not this ordinance may be, one thing is crystal clear: County Planners never devised a good plan for the County. Things keep being built, and they’re turning the eye to “us”, the property managers as the culprit. We all know we do good things, but there are some bad players in the crowd. 
I’d like to find a way for us to all meet sometime in the next 1-2 weeks. We need to get our collective voice together and chat about ways we can make better impacts on our county and show our service vs. the disservice brought to the area by our guests. Vendors, this is not only an opportunity for you to connect with pm’s, but more importantly, a chance to help us solve known issues in the area so we can keep you all busy 🙂 

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