Walton County residents speak out about short-term rentals

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:22 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s no secret short-term rentals have caused some issues, but it’s things many people living in residential communities never anticipated dealing with. County commissioners have been looking to regulate these rentals, even drafting a Short-Term Rental Ordinance. But, it was tabled at the last meeting until it could be re-written clarifying certain regulations.

When moving her family to a gated community, South Walton resident Valerie Knight never thought safety would end up being her biggest concern.

“Where we used to have an occasional call for a noise ordinance after ten, you know maybe somebody was staying up late and having a good time. It’s gone to situations where we’ve had residents physically threatened, the sheriffs had to do deadly weapons searches in our neighborhood, evictions,” Knight said.

Knight said things shifted about 18 months ago when short-term rentals started stirring up trouble.

“We’ve had extreme incidents around what those strangers represent in our neighborhood,” Knight said.

Piles of trash and overflowed parking are only the start of much larger issues. Knight said kids are doing things they shouldn’t and it seems parents aren’t concerned.

“You know ever got kids that are driving golf carts, nine or ten years old. They’ve crashed golf carts in our neighborhood. We’ve found children in our neighborhood pool, seven years old and unsupervised,” Knight said.

Many of these issues were put at the forefront of a potential Short-Term Rental Ordinance that was tabled last commission meeting. County officials said the re-draft could put a stop to a lot of these problems if it’s passed.

“I think there’s a lot more enforcement than we currently have, there’s a lot more recourse for neighbors. we still have a number to call, somebody to get a hold of 24/7 that has to respond in an hour. The trash has to be in containers,” Kristen Shell, Deputy Director for Walton County Planning and Development, said. “But we have to get the rule in place before we can address it.”

Knight said she believes these rules could make a difference. But ideally, she said things need to be taken a step further.

“I think what the county has put forth in their initial drafts around being able to track this and ensuring there is that license in place would help,” Knight said. “If the short-term rental operations, the business can be acknowledged as a business. We know that they file taxes as a business, we know that they are in revenues as the business, we know they do tax right ups as a business. It would be helpful if they were acknowledged as a business.”

NewsChannel 7 reached out to county commissioners for comment but they declined, saying they want to wait until the new ordinance draft is presented to them. The reading is anticipated for late September, but there is no finalized date.

Copyright 2022 WJHG. All rights reserved.