Walton County to consider airboat curfew

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“We cannot restrict or limit the number of airboats, but we can limit launch sites and hours of operation.”

DEBORAH WHEELER @WaltonSunDeb

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Walton County Commissioners voted to set a date to hear public input for consideration of adopting an airboat curfew ordinance.

The date will be Jan. 9 during their regular meeting.

The request came during Tuesday’s meeting from County Attorney Sidney Noyes, who was directed in September to research what the county can do about regulating the operation of airboats on the Choctawhatchee Bay.

The possibility of an ordinance started with citizen complaints about the noise made by 30A Airboat Adventures operating on the bay. A petition with 150 signatures was presented to commissioners in September asking for a ban or at least a curfew due to the noise and disturbing the peace of the homeowners on the bay.

Walton County’s noise ordinance states that if you’re in your house with the doors and windows closed and the noise is still disturbing your peace, the noise is a nuisance and in violation.

Noyes advised commissioners that the State Legislature has preempted a blanket ban on such operations. However, days and hours of operations can be controlled, as well as launch sites.

The owner of 30A Airboat Adventures begins operating at 8 a.m. and continues until dark seven days a week, according to bay residents.

Although 30A Airboat Adventures owner Daniel McCurdy said he has modified the boat to make it quieter, residents on the bay said it has not helped.

“Any regulations that would discriminate against airboats would require a super majority vote from the County Commission,” Noyes told commissioners.

She has asked Public Works Administration to come up with possible acceptable launch sites.

Noyes suggested a curfew ordinance allowing airboat traffic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Operation would not be allowed on Sunday.

“We cannot restrict or limit the number of airboats, but we can limit launch sites and hours of operation,” she said.

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