Last Updated: February 11, 2023
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: https://www.co.walton.fl.us/1318/Short-Term-Rental-Issues
Walton County STR Playbook for Property Managers and Owners (still under construction): tinyurl.com/
Walton County STR Website for Property Managers and Owners (still under construction): https://waltoncountystr.godaddysites.com/
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.
We have action – please be aware:
When: WED 9/14/22 4pm CT
Where: 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:
I do not currently have a meeting schedule but will send an update when this has been determined.
“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.”
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 news, GOLF 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?
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 🙂
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:
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 TIME IS NOW. In case you haven’t heard me preaching from the rooftop lately, THE TIME IS NOW (not later…)
What I need from you: 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 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:
During the 4/14/22 meeting, the Planning Commission approved the ordinance with the following proposed changes:
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!
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.
Happy Thursday, Everyone! The 2nd draft to the ordinance has been posted: https://www.co.walton.
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!