On Sept. 17, Walton County Planning Commission held a workshop at the South Walton Annex to hear from the public about proposed changes to the county's parking ordinance.
The commission divided the workshop into two parts: residential parking and commercial parking.
The Walton Sun tackled the residential aspect last Saturday and this week is presenting the commercial concerns related to the proposed changes.
Commercial appeal: Hurting the ‘little guy’?
New in the commercial realm is the proposal to reduce the amount of compact car spaces, and eliminate shared parking.
Standard restaurants would be required to have one parking space per 100-square feet of gross floor area plus one space per two employees on the largest shift, plus for outdoor seating one space per three seats for booths and tables and one space per two counter seats.
Fast-food restaurants would be required to have one space per 100 square feet of gross floor area, plus one space per two employees on the largest shift plus for all outdoor seating one space per three seats for booths and tables and one space per two counter seats.
Taverns, nightclubs and lounges would be required to have one space per 100 square feet of gross floor area plus, one space per two employees on the largest shift plus for all outdoor seating, one space per three seats for booths and tables and one space per two counter seats.
Walton County Small Business Association spokesman Gary Shipman took the podium first and challenged the inconsistencies in the proposal, pointing out that restaurants located within a development under a DRI are exempt from the new rules and as such, it would be the "little guy" that the new ordinance hurts.
"Not a single restaurant on 30A could meet these requirements," he said. "Only the gigantic chains can buy parking lots. You can count on your fingers the number of large businesses in the county that could do this. If a storm should destroy a small business in this county, none of us could rebuild. Why would we want an ordinance that has the ability to put out of business the majority of businesses in this county?”
Urban Planner Mark Schnell also took the podium.
"No one wants us to be Okaloosa or Bay County," he said. "The rules you are proposing are of a strip-mall environment. That's what we have to the east and west of us. And that's why everyone lives here. We need to create a master plan for Seagrove and then do the same for each of our communities. Each community has different needs. We don't want stand-alone buildings surrounded by parking lots."
Restaurant owner Hanie Nasri said, "If a disaster happens, where will new guidelines put us? I have 26 parking spaces. I would either have to downsize and lose my liquor license or leave as I would then have to have more than 50."
30A resident Steve Springer called the proposed ordinance absurd, and brought up its political aspect, likening it to a communist approach, and suggesting that commissioners elected on the Republican ticket should check their party's platform before voting.
Resident Tony Anderson said every tourist community has parking problems, but the solution is better transportation.
Resident Bob Ward complained about developers close to him cramming in as much in a small space as they can, and said it is dangerous.
The next workshop to hear community input on this issue is Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. at the South Walton Annex off 331N.