“A lot of brides are not accepting their bells in Walton County. They’re activity to Okaloosa Canton because of those fees.”
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SANTA ROSA BEACH — Bells artist Connie Reeder said she knows of six brides who capital to “tie the knot” at one of Walton County’s accessible bank accesses, but accept had to adapt their bells affairs because of the county’s aerial admittance fees.
Until beforehand this year, the canton had answerable a $50 appropriate accident admittance fee for any admeasurement wedding, altogether affair or added accident at one of its beaches. But in February the Canton Commission accustomed a new appropriate accident fee anatomy that’s based on the cardinal of bodies accessory the event.
The new fees are: $50 for an accident with beneath than 10 people; $150 for 10-30 people; $250 for 31-50 people; $500 for 51-75 people; and $1,000 for 76 or added people.
Those fees were implemented because of a growing cardinal of requests for permits for bank weddings and added events, said canton Code Enforcement Administrative Assistant/Permit Clerk Trisha Goff.
“We capital to accept added ascendancy to accomplish abiding there were not violations, and absolute anniversary accident to one at anniversary bank admission per day,” Goff said. “We’re not accomplishing it to accomplish money, but to accumulate things beneath control.”
But now, “a lot of brides are not accepting their bells in Walton County,” said Reeder, who owns Miramar Beach-based Sugar Bank Weddings. “They’re activity to Okaloosa Canton because of those fees.”
In Okaloosa County, appropriate accident permits are not appropriate for bank weddings abounding by 49 or beneath people, canton agent Rob Brown said. A $100 admittance is appropriate for a bank bells or added appropriate accident abounding by 50 or added people, he said. A $100 refundable aegis drop is additionally required. Money from the permits goes into the county’s accepted fund.
Reeder, who has planned weddings for 12 years, said she organized about 14 weddings at Walton County’s accessible beaches aftermost year back the admittance fee was $50. She said she has a few weddings appointed at those beaches beneath the new fee schedule.
Of the six brides who initially planned to be wed on a Walton Canton bank this year but are now attractive elsewhere, two will anniversary accept weddings of added than 76 bodies in attendance, Reeder said.
Those two brides would accept anniversary had to pay $1,000 in admittance fees if their weddings were in Walton County. Instead, they’ll pay abundant beneath and accept their weddings at Henderson Bank Accompaniment Esplanade in Destin, Reeder said.
‘Open to everyone’
Walton Canton agent David Demarest said one of the trends that led to the change in the county’s fee agenda was the admeasurement of abounding bank weddings.
“There was some intricate architecture and some sound-and-light systems involved,” he said. “Some of the pre-wedding parties on the bank had 100-plus people.”
Another problem, he said, was some associates of the bells affair advisedly preventing added bodies from accepting to a bank parking lot or bank admission area.
Some of those associates “don’t appetite bodies with a acknowledgment or bank awning walking bottomward area the helpmate walks down,” Demarest said. “But that’s area (wedding organizers) should use a clandestine bank bells armpit if that’s the acquaintance they want. We appetite our beaches to be accessible to everyone.”
Overall, the county’s new appropriate accident fee anatomy hasn’t afflicted the cardinal of bank bells permits issued. For example, 70 permits were issued from Feb. 18-June 2 aftermost year and 69 were issued from Feb. 22-June 2 this year, Demarest said. Money from the admittance fees goes into the county’s accepted fund.
Reeder, who said that 95 percent of her audience appear from alfresco Northwest Florida, also took affair with some bells receptions that were accustomed to booty abode on Walton Canton beaches.
“My affair is, don’t bandy the babyish out with the bathwater, but aloof ban receptions,” she said. “(Reception-goers) are aggravating to body bonfires out there and are bubbler on the beach. The canton should aloof acquiesce weddings like they acclimated to. A bells takes an hour. A accession — they’re there all night.”
Reeder additionally complained that Walton County’s bells bell-ringer fee is $750 per wedding, compared to Okaloosa’s $500 annual charge.
“I anon go to Panama Burghal Bank or Okaloosa Canton now,” she said. “Small businesses can’t attempt with the large, accumulated resort backdrop that do weddings on their clandestine bank accesses.”
Citing apropos about parking, the Destin Burghal Council anon affairs to accede a accessible authorization that could absolute weddings at city-owned bank areas to June White Decker Park.
At Henderson Bank Accompaniment Park, the ante for a bank bells are: $50 for 1-12 guests; $100 for 13-30 guests; $200 for 31-50 guests; $275 for 51-75 guests; $375 for 76-100 guests: and $500 for 101-150 guests. The esplanade additionally accuse a $100 bank bureaucracy fee and a $150 refundable aegis deposit.
Park Manager Chris Hawthorne said the esplanade hosted 276 clandestine contest in agenda year 2016 and should see an alike college absolute this year.
“Beach weddings are by far the majority of the contest we accept here,” he said.
Some of the acquirement from the clandestine contest goes into the accompaniment parks account and some is acclimated by the Friends of the Emerald Coast Accompaniment Parks for projects at Henderson Bank Accompaniment Esplanade and its sister park, Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou Accompaniment Esplanade in Niceville.
At accessible beaches in Panama Burghal Beach, the fee for a bank bells or added appropriate accident abounding by 500 or beneath bodies is $50, burghal Building Department agent Leslie Roberson said.
Wedding organizers will acquisition chargeless places to conduct a bank bells further west on the Panhandle.
On Santa Rosa County-owned beaches, for example, “It’s first-come, first-serve (with no amount answerable and no admittance needed) if you appetite to get affiliated on the beach,” canton backer Brandi Thompson Whitehurst said.
The canton does allegation for the rental of a bank esplanade pavilion or added ability for appropriate events. Costs ranges from $26.76 to $53.50.
“We’re a bargain” compared to the costs answerable in added areas, Thompson Whitehurst said.
On Pensacola Beach, the Santa Rosa Island Authority does not allegation a bank bells admittance fee, but does appeal to apperceive the location, date and time of a wedding, as able-bodied as the almost cardinal of bodies in attendance.
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