After discussing this topic with a reader I made numerous phone calls to discover exactly what the laws on the seawalls in Walton County were. I knew that there was a law stating that the seawalls had to be covered with sand, but I wanted to find out what the law stated and where it was located. I spoke with Gary Demear in the building department, and he was able to answer all of my questions.
Walton County has a comprehensive land use plan that determines how every parcel of land can be used. You have probably seen many acronyms for this plan, for example VMU (village mixed use), or SFR (single family residential). The comprehensive land use plan is in place to protect the community from overdevelopment/bad development, to protect the environment, and is the law recognized by the state. In Walton County’s comprehensive land use plan it states that NO ONE can do anything on the coast that causes erosion. County officials felt that seawalls increased the erosion of surrounding properties, which would make them illegal. In order to clarify the point a specialist in beach erosion was hired from FSU to study Walton County. This scientist presented before the BCC (Board of County Commissioners) his findings. He stated that seawalls increase beach erosion especially to adjacent properties. According to the comprehensive land use plan, this would make seawalls illegal. This is where a great deal of debate between gulf front property owners and the county began. The erosion specialist stated that covering seawalls with sand, AND KEEPING THEM COVERED would greatly reduce the effects of erosion. The county is currently having another study done that will become part of the new HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan). This study will continue over the next year. Once the HCP is complete it will state clearly and precisely the codes and ordinances for seawalls if they are allowed. Gary told me that seawalls will have to be covered with sand under this plan. At this point no seawalls have been approved by the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), and until they are they can not be considered permanent. Gary also told me that if the DEP approves any seawalls they will have to remain covered with sand. As I stated in a previous post, residents can and should keep an eye on all the seawalls along the coast. Any seawall that is not covered, will have to be covered. Gulf front property owners have the county tied up in the legalities of the wording of the Land Use Plan right now, but this will be cleared up in the next year to a year and a half.
I just want to say that this issue is not about attacking gulf front property owners. It is about gulf front property owners respecting the beauty and health of our home, and anything less than a covered seawall is disrespect.