An open letter to the Walton County Commissioners, staff, legal counsel, and others supported and salaries paid for by businesses and residents of Walton County:
Recently the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) held one of their quarterly meetings in Walton County at Celebration Hall in TopSail Village.
My family, which owns and manages Celebration Hall and several other businesses in Walton County, donated the use of our facilities to ABC in order to gain exposure for Walton County and Celebration Hall as a wedding destination and premier facility for wedding professionals from Pensacola to Panama City. There was an excellent turnout with 50 to 60 participants.
Three public entities were to be the chosen speakers to speak about what their county is doing regarding beach weddings, explaining the process and rules to use the beach for events and weddings. Only the Walton County designated spokesperson decided to not show up!
The Walton County Planning Department declined to be present at this meeting, supposedly based on legal advice. Apparently a person/entity purchased a ticket for this event that is in litigation with Walton County regarding the use of their property for weddings. Walton County was notified of that fact, and told that “legal issues” of that litigation would NOT be discussed at this meeting.
I am writing this letter to you to express my extreme disappointment with Walton County’s “position.” Why have an Economic Development Council, or express the need for jobs in the county if the county itself cannot present information to the public about doing business in Walton County — because of one person or entity in litigation with the county?
This decision was detrimental to my business, Celebration Hall, which is located in a Village Mixed Use Center and has followed all the rules of the county. This Walton County decision will result in less business in Walton County. This Walton County action, and/or lack of it, will result in less conformance with the rules and regulations of Walton County and more code enforcement issues.
Really, is Walton County unwilling or unable to present its rules and regulations to a professional group of wedding consultants and wedding businesses?
My objective is to see a policy determination directive to Walton County staff from the Board of County Commissioners that is pro-active toward businesses doing business in Walton County that follow all rules and regulations. Walton County staff should be directed to present Walton County rules, regulations, and opportunities to other business groups and professionals.
No one was asking for a legal position at this meeting, so Walton County’s absence only hurt Walton County and businesses in Walton County. If the planning department or any other Walton County staff cannot perform these services, then perhaps the county will need to hire a swarm of lawyers to accompany each Walton County employee, or we the taxpayers need to change who is making these job and business-killing policies and decisions.
Tim Pauls is a former county commissioner and Santa Rosa Beach resident.