Walton County looks to add paid parking program at public lots

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Paid public beach parking could be on the way for South Walton County. 

County Commissioners are considering the Vann Ness Butler Jr. parking lot off 30A in Seaside as a pilot program for paid parking. 

“You could pay on the way in, or you could you could structure it similar to the airport parking area where you obtain a ticket on the way in and pay on the way out,” Stan Sunday, county administrator said. “The other option would be to manage it through to a parking app.” 

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“I have mixed emotions about it. It’s really hard to get a parking spot around here without it being paid for but with it being paid it might be easier,” Carleigh Brewington, a beachgoer said.

The county said they could make an additional $900,000 a year off the Butler Jr. lot alone if they charged $25 a day.  

The other options for the county are to lease or sell the property. 

“We should either sell it and allow either Watercolor or Seaside, whoever wants to buy, buy it, or if we do use it for paid parking. I would like to see the locals not have to pay,” Donna Johns, District 4 Commissioner said. 

Both commissioners and residents agreed the paid parking program should be free for locals at the March 26 meeting, the county is looking to use a sticker or license plate program.   

“We’ve discussed it to some degree, and I do think it’s really important that we do have paid parking. I do think that it is a way to make sure that cars are not just parked everywhere,” Johns said. 

Board members want to do something with the lot since the public beach access across 30A became private property in a lawsuit. 

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They directed county administrator Stan Sunday to bring solid numbers for each option back to the April 23 board meeting in Santa Rosa Beach. 

Commissioner Johns said if they move forward with paid parking, she’d like to see the proceeds go towards fixing the infrastructure in South Walton County. If they sell it, she wants the money to go to buy beach property for public use. 

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