An ordinance regulating farmers markets in the county has passed the Planning Commission and will now go to County Commissioners for final approval.

Walton County Board of County Commissioners does not currently have provisions classifying and authorizing farmers markets or regulating them. The Design Review Board found it in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of citizens to establish regulations for the operation of temporary farmers markets.

The DRB requested at its June 6 meeting that Planning staff meet with those who hold farmers markets to address their questions regarding the permitting process.

What they heard is that they would like to see them regulated under the outdoor event permitting process.

Planning staff brought the ordinance to the Planning Commission asking to amend sections of the Walton County Land Development Code, establishing a process for regulating farmers markets as temporary uses within Walton County Scenic Corridors.

"Providing opportunities for making healthy choices to get fresh produce and other farm products is important to our citizens," said Planning Director Mac Carpenter. "Farmers markets provide opportunities for community interaction and drive more customers to commercial centers. It's good for business and the public."

Inspite of it plusses, Planning Staff said Scenic Corridor guidelines make it difficult and/or impossible to approve this type of activity.

The proposed ordinance makes allowances for tents and signage and provides guidelines for the permitting process.

Section 13 of the LDC would be amended to state that temporary farmers markets shall be permitted provided all market locations are approved by the Walton County Planning and Development Services. All applications must be submitted and approved a minimum of one month preceding the proposed opening date of the market. No farmers market will be permitted to operate without approval of the Walton County Planning and Development Services through the Outdoor Event Review process and will receive an annual farmer’s market permit from Planning and Development services.

Farmers markets will only be permitted in commercial centers that contain event common areas.

Temporary structures, specifically tents, are allowed only for certified nonprofit organizations and must be approved for a temporary structure permit and be placed for a maximum of 72 hours.

A nonprofit organization will be granted a maximum of two temporary structure permits per calendar year.

In the U.S. 98 and 331 corridors, a common facility or area will be allowed to be utilized by local farmers/growers on a regular recurring basis to sell fresh fruits, vegetables, produce, baked goods, food products, flowers and plants for independent stands directly to consumers and consisting of no less than five individual vendors.

Items can not be for resale. Up to 10 percent of space may be for non-food product vendors.

They must be located at least 150 feet from the FDOT right of way and out of parking lots.

Each market may only operate between the hours of 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. for four hours per day. Set up time is limited to one hour before operating time and clean up is limited to one hour after closing time.

Signage is allowed only on an approved reader board on the main monument sign.

This ordinance will become effective when filed with the Secretary of State.

"We worked with the Design Review Board," said presenting staff. "It will be incorporated into the Land Development Code along with descriptions of locations where they can be located, tents, and signage. It has been a collaborative effort."

The proposed ordinance passed the Planning Commission with a unanimous vote.

The ordinance will come before the Board of County Commissioners at its next meeting.