South Walton couple sues county over weddings

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Kurt Lischka, Jun 18, 2011.

  1. NotDeadYet

    NotDeadYet Beach Fanatic

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    I wish the wedding folks would stop framing this as business vs. hypothetical grouchy old geezers. The fact is that tourists come here on vacation, and many of them want to relax when they are here. You won't hear from the unhappy family that landed next to one of the all-night wedding parties because they are long gone. They won't be turning up at Walton County hearings and they won't be writing letters to the local papers. They will be planning their next vacation somewhere else.
     
  2. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    Homeowners have the ability to set local (HOA based) covenants and restrictions. They also have legal recourse when major issues arrive. General purpose county codes should be enforced conservatively because there are numerous levels of authority beneath the county local homeowners can rely on.

    It also sounds like the county codes are poorly defined. If that is the case, we basically have a code enforcement board running around making up the law as they go along. That's not a good situation to be in, ever.

    As I always say, the closer you move the governing body to the people it represents the more effective it becomes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  3. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    Does anyone have a link to the text of the county code that is supposedly being violated here?
     
  4. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    Not everyone lives in an area with an HOA - I specifically bought in an area that didn't have one because I can't stand forking out money so people with too much time in their dissatisfied lives can micromanage my yard and house.

    I also bought a residential property in a residential neighborhood, so I didn't have to worry about a gas station, restaurant, convention center, or other COMMERCIAL use being built next door.

    A house being rented out to be used as a house does not violate its residential land use designation.

    A house being rented out to be used as an event venue does.

    It violates fire codes, food safety rules, occupancy rules, and many others.
     
  5. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    It is in the land development code of Walton County.

    You need to read the following section 02.01.03L(3)(a)(iii) of the Walton County Land Development Code (LDC)

    The Code Board found the Bennett's were in violation of section 2.01.03(L)(3)(a)(iii) of the Walton County Land Development Code ("the LDC"), because they were using their property which is located in the Residential Preservation Area land use district for a nonresidential activity by conducting weddings and other special events on the property. Such use is prohibited by the LDC.

    This case was appealed by the Bennett's to Circuit Court and I have attached a copy of Judge Laporte's final order.

    They did not appeal Judge Laporte's ruling.

    A read of the ruling will help.

    View attachment Judges Order.pdf
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  6. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    Odd, that brief basically admits that "non-residential use" is totally undefined in the code, yet, the court claimed the Bennet's were in violation of the undefined code.
     
  7. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    I loved this bit: "The term "non-residential uses" in the Land Development Code, even though undefined is not unconstitutionally vague, as the Code gives a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what conduct is forbidden."

    I know it's legalese, but it still amuses me and jibes with what I have been saying all along.

    Unless you're a total dumbarse, you know what a non-residential use is.

    Don't quite understand why they think they will be successful in suing. The earlier decision was reaffirmed by the court and the basic facts were not in dispute.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  8. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Has anyone considered this? The Bennett's are evidently in violation of a court order, ordinances and the land use code yet an attorney has taken their case instead of advising them they are in error. It points out a flaw that I believe is far too prevalent in our legal system today. Instead of advising clients when a case will probably be considered frivolous or unwinnable, attorneys will take it and the bucks of those pursuing it. I may be wrong, but I believe judges should throw a lot more cases out of court than they are presently. The ads for civil lawsuits on TV drive me crazy and it is my belief they cost everyone money that doesn't need to be spent.
     
  9. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    Andy, I have a book called "The Death of Common sense, how Law is Suffocating America" on my reading list. I will pass it along when I am finished if you want.

    Excessive litigation and bureacracy is stifling initiative, and leaves no room for common sense.

    Most of the recent issues in Sowal are great examples of this.
     
  10. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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  11. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    The outcome here may be very good regardless of who wins in that it may force the county to finally clarify the code.
     
  12. lenzoe

    lenzoe Beach Fanatic

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    I completely agree. I can't imagine arriving at my vacation rental and discovering I had to endure a wedding party with a bunch of drunken strangers next door for the evening.

    At the same time, I wish the "wedding ordinance" folks would stop trying to use this as an opportunity to create more unneeded legislation and bureaucracy governing short-term rentals (i.e., the certificate of land use ordinance). The fact the county can and has fined these people and that courts are upholding those fines shows the existing ordinances work if they are enforced.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2011
  13. Abby Prentiss

    Abby Prentiss Beach Fanatic

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    From Karen Bennett, co-owner of Pearly White Properties, LLC, which was given a $22,500 fine after Walton County code enforcement found her in non-compliance for allegedly conducting non-residential activities at a home..............


    You need to be aware of the fact that the Walton County Code Enforcement Board, which is a board appointed by the Walton County Commissioners, has decided to make up their own rules and regulations to impose on Walton County property owners.

    For many years, property owners have been able to rent out their houses to various types of renters, including vacationers, wedding groups, family reunions, golfing groups, corporate retreats and anyone wanting to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or any other special occasion. This is a given right for anyone who owns a house and to rent your own property is not considered a “commercial act or activity. “

    The Walton County Commissioners have toyed with the idea of regulating how owners rent out their properties to no avail.

    Instead, the volunteer-based, Walton County Code Enforcement Board has decided how this issue should be handled and has decided that weddings, and other such events, are considered “non-residential” and are no longer allowed to be held at rental beach houses. How can this be, since weddings, birthday parties, celebrations, etc. are held at homes all the time, which is what most reasonable and sensible people would define as a “residential activity?”

    So, many of us have asked for quite some time, “What activities are considered “residential” since it is not explained in any of the Walton County Code books or anywhere else?” Is having a cookout or celebrating your child’s birthday party, considered a “residential activity?” According to the Walton County Code Enforcement Board, even these types of events may not be considered a residential activity. What is their reasoning, you might ask? What else is not allowed, then?

    I thought the United States Constitution provided for the right to assemble!

    No one within Walton County staff will answer the many questions asked about what criteria is being used to establish and create this new regulation. Again, it is not stated anywhere in the code books. You just have to be able to read Code Enforcement’s minds.
    I was told my property was in “non-compliance” since “non-residential activities” were being conducted on a residentially-zoned property. When I asked Code Enforcement how the property could come into compliance, I was told to eliminate two sentences from my rental website.

    Since when does Walton County Code Enforcement have the authority to tell property owners how they can advertise? Advertising is protected under the constitutional right of freedom of speech, and nowhere in the Walton County codes does it state that Code Enforcement has this right.

    Begrudgingly, I made the changes and was told my property was “in compliance.” Two weeks later, Code Enforcement told me the same property was NOT in compliance now, because rental guests had a wedding event on the property. Are they just making up new rules each week? Sounds like harassment to me!

    In conclusion, if you are a rental property owner, you should be very careful when renting out your property. According to Walton County, if your guests are having a “gathering”, then YOU are violating the NEW Walton County codes and YOU will be held responsible.

    So screen all renters! If you work with a rental company to rent out your property, make sure they are screening your rental guests too, because you are ultimately responsible for the activities of your guests if they have an “event” — even if you aren’t aware of it.

    Here is the most important piece of this intriguing puzzle: As of June 3, 2011, the State of Florida passed a new law, which essentially states that a rental property cannot be treated any differently than a non-rental property. So, what that means to you non-rental property owners is that if a rental beach house is not allowed to host weddings and other special events then, neither can you! That includes all "gatherings," parties and celebrations!

    If you don’t like how Walton County is taking away your property rights, you should contact Walton County and let them know. Feel free to email the following Walton County staff:

    •Mac Carpenter at carmac@co.walton.fl.us

    •Greg Kisela at kisgreg@co.walton.fl.us

    •Lynn Hoshira at hoslynn@co.walton.fl.us

    •Wayne Dyess at dyewayne@co.walton.fl.us
     
  14. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    Sorry, but the whole issue is ridiculous.

    Only in Sowal is regularly renting out a residential property in a residential neighborhood as a commercial events venue a constitutional right.

    If they really want to rent out these establishments, how about they be required to have enough parking, meet fire codes, and satisfy all the food safety guidelines.
     
  15. seagrovegirl

    seagrovegirl Beach Fanatic

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    Residential properties do not have weekly weddings, or large gathering events every weekend or even twice in a weekend. Every year we have a large gathering in our home for Thanksgiving, that is ONCE a year and we do not inconvenience our fellow neighbors with noise or parking issues.

    Being considerate and using common sense has gone out the window with the Pearlie White Group. Rental agencies typically screen guests on the amount of people, adults and children, that will occupy the property. That means there are enough beds and parking to accommodate the guests. Sometimes the rules are broken by the guests but that is usually corrected quickly by the rental agency by asking the guests to adjust or leave.

    To have a "convention center" next door to a residental home or in a residential community is absurd as the WC Judicial Court has agreed and so has the Apellate Court.

    If all this legal whining or wrangling means that I need a permit to have a Thanksgiving event once a year in my neighborhood, then so be it. Especially if it keeps those that abuse the system and our community for their lack of foresight and thoughtlessness in check.
     
  16. tsutcli

    tsutcli Beach Fanatic

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    Chances are good that the party would have been going on for days/nights prior to the wedding night. If you happen to be the unfortunate nearby rental you could have your whole vacation ruined and probably never return to SOWAL.
     
  17. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    I am thankful we were vacationing here when this kind of thing was NOT happening. I would have had a cow if a big wedding bash was going on next to us- when we had little kids and our "party" (such as it was) ended at 8 pm and we went to bed BECAUSE WE WERE ON VACATION AND WANTED SOME PEACE AND QUIET.

    Sorry- have felt the caps were necessary lately. Kinda over the people who might drive the bread and butter, long-time tourist families away. SoWal didn't need the super-size wedding business before, and the only ones who need it now are those who are renting the super-size houses and buying into the the super-size wedding.

    Hello- can of worms! :)
     
  18. John R

    John R needs to get out more

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    The Bennett's although not anyone's neighbor, sound like sh/tty neighbors. If I lived in that neighborhood, I would be calling the sheriff frequently. 267 2000
     
  19. tsutcli

    tsutcli Beach Fanatic

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    It is apparent that you have a miopic view of these events. They are not one night stands but in many cases start a week before the actual nuptials and increase in debauchery as the week progresses and more folks arrive. Are the Bennett's providing security for the whole event or only one night? I think we know the answer to that one.
     

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