Signs or no signs was the question for Walton County beaches

SOUTH WALTON, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Signs or no signs? That was the question at Tuesday's Walton County Commission meeting.

With the new land use ordinance going into effect July 1st restricting the public's access to parts of the beach, county officials must now decide how the public will be informed where they can and cannot go.

Some beachfront property owners are resorting to signs but commissioners want to regulate how many they can have and what those signs will look like.

"We had examples of the colors that the board is looking to approve for the signs as well as seeing the size of those signs. They're going to be regulated, they can't be any larger than 18 inches by 24 inches is what is currently put in the ordinance. What they also did was they discussed what can be a permanent sign versus what may have to be a sign that has to be removed," Walton County Public Information Manager Louis Svehla explained.

According to county documents, a public workshop last month showed a large number of citizens concerned with the number of obstructions and signs on the beach.

Other than the aesthetics, many expressed safety concerns for residents, tourists, and federally protected species in the area.

"There is a lot of discussion when it comes to sea turtles. One of the big things is if it's permanent signs on the beach, how does that affect or not affect potential crawls by those turtles?" Svehla said.

Discussion over how to enforce the new rules left commissioners with more questions than answers.

"Well, a lot of discussion [Tuesday] was how will it be enforced. Marking your property lines is a little different in this scenario than you can put a fence around your house," Svehla said, "so a lot of discussion, specifically with the Sheriff, who has a law enforcement background, was how can we make sure this is enforceable. Signs can certainly do that but if the Sheriff has an option of not having signage but still being able to ascertain exactly where those property lines are, he'll be able to enforce it whether there are signs there or not."

Possible GPS tools the Walton County Sheriff's Office may have to distinguish boundary lines led the Board to table a decision until their June 25th meeting.

"So we really need to know and the board has said they need to know what is at the Sheriff's disposal and what kind of tools does [the Sheriff] have that will certainly lead to a decision from the board that hopefully, all the board can support," Svehla said.