Gulf of Mexico
Walton County beach vendor. News File Photo.

FL - Bonfires big businesses? Fees bringing an estimated $650K to Walton code department

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Beach bonfires are a hot commodity for Walton County's Code Compliance Department, the department's director told county commissioners at their Nov. 23 meeting.

Earlier this year, commissioners approved a change to the county's beach activities ordinance that increased the cost of a beach bonfire permit from $50 to $100, with proceeds split equally between the Code Compliance Department and the South Walton Fire District.

Between April 1 and the end of September, the new fee arrangement had brought $322,700 to the Code Compliance Department, Director Tony Cornman told commissioners.

That represents fees collected for the 6,454 beach bonfire permits issued through September. And with cold weather now descending on the area, Cornman said his office expects the number of permits issued to approach 7,000 by the end of the year, which would mean a total of $350,000 in revenue.

Beachgoers enjoy a day in Miramar Beach. Next month, Walton County commissioners will consider proposed changes to the county's beach activities ordinance.

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Prior to the change in the ordinance, beach bonfire fee permits cost $50 and all the money went to the South Walton Fire District.

Nearly matching the revenue coming into the Code Compliance Department from bonfire permits is the fee collected by the department for its oversight of the county's managed vendor program. That responsibility, given to Code Compliance last year, involves addressing any issues with vendors working at the county's public beach access points.

For that work, the department receives a $3 fee from each set of beach chairs and umbrellas rented and set up on the public beaches by the 21 vendors participating in the managed vendor program. Through September of this year, Cornman told commissioners that vendors had rented 99,587 sets of beach chairs and umbrellas, bringing $298,761 to his department.

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