After hearing complaints about an airboat business operating in the Choctawhatchee Bay at a previous meeting, on Monday Walton County Board of County Commissioners heard from County Attorney Sidney Noyes that her subsequent study shows that the boats cannot be banned, according to Florida Statute.
"I have noted six or seven ordinances in Florida Statutes about it," she said. "The state has pre-empted and we have to follow the state's statute. And any regulations that would discriminate against airboats would require a super majority vote from the County Commission."
However, Noyes said based on what she found, the county can adopt an ordinance that would regulate the day and time the airboats can operate and restrict launch sites. She has asked the Public Works Administration to come up with possible acceptable launch sites.
"I suggest time and launch location restrictions," she said.
District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper suggested possibly imposing a speed limit for when the airboat operator is close to a homeowner's property, as they have complained about the noise.
However, Noyes reminded her that the county must follow state rules.
District 1 Commissioner Bill Chapman stated that the prop wash is what is causing the noise and there is nothing that can be done about that.
Chris Kent, a 30-year resident of West Shallows Drive on the Bay, said that when he called the owner of the business about the noise, he told the owner that he has the right idea of giving tours on the bay, but he has the wrong boat.
"He told me he can quiet the boat and pull it in front of my house and I could talk above it," said Kent. "But an airboat at full power is 108 decibels. We have a solid noise ordinance. We would like to have someone's boat not come into our homes and be louder than the TV. We want to have him quiet the boat. You can change prop type, velocity of the fan, and drive it down to 80 decibels."
Noyes was instructed to research further and will bring more information back to commissioners at the next meeting.