To alleviate traffic problems on the east end of 30A, Walton County Commissioners recently approved a study for an additional north-south thoroughfare. Building new roads helps construction companies but studies all over the world show more roads merely leads to increased traffic. The only proven method to reduce traffic is to charge people for driving when it is congested. I abhor toll roads; paying to drive is a regressive tax. However, building more roads and expecting less traffic is just spinning your wheels. Don’t discount environmental degradation either; 30A is a unique place.
Fear not; the Florida Legislature could bail us out. In the Senate and House, there are complimentary bills to restrict the ability of local governments to protect the public’s right to the customary use of Florida beaches. At first, I saw this legislation as a long-shot, but the measures have been fast-tracked. Plus, proponents have enlisted the aid of some of Sunshine State’s most powerful lobbyists.
Senate Bill 804 and House Bill 631, as currently written, prohibit all local customary use ordinances and would instead require a judicial determination on a parcel by parcel basis. While each parcel is slogging through the legal process, tourists might decide the hassle is too much. Imagine, it is easy if you try, the negative press reports. With gulf access restricted, people may forego second homes. From Economics 101 we know what happens to prices when demand shrinks.
The proposed bills will dampen the traveling public’s enthusiasm for the world’s prettiest beaches. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a beach vacation and not be able to enjoy the beach. You don’t have to win a Nobel Prize in Economics to see how beach use restrictions will affect SoWal’s economy. On the other hand, SB 804 and HB 631 could unintentionally reduce congestion.
Not to be outdone, another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1400, shifts short-term rental property regulation from local governments to the state. Most short-term rentals are not a problem, but the bad apples spoil the basket. Boisterous noise at 10 p.m. may not be a problem for Miami’s South Beach, but in Walton County’s Blue Mountain Beach it would be, end of discussion. Combined these bills are a three-headed monster that could destroy our quality of life and cripple our economy.
Contact your local legislators: Sen. George Gainer, 850-747-5454, firstname.lastname@example.org; Rep. Brad Drake, 850-717-0547, email@example.com. Politics is not a spectator sport. As a fractional owner of gulf-front real estate, customary use benefits all of Walton County. Public opposition stopped the geniuses in Tallahassee from moving the Panhandle to the Eastern Time Zone. These bills deserve similar fates.
You can’t always get what you want but Buz Livingston, CFP can help you get what you need. For specific recommendations visit us online at livingstonfinancial.net or come by our office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.