St. Joe commissioners reverse code enforcement decision

Just two weeks ago, Port St. Joe city commissioners spent upwards of 30 minutes debating whether two code enforcement violations were enforceable based on unclear wording within the city’s legislation. In the end, they voted 3-1 to allow the violations to proceed through the justice system. 

In their Nov. 16 meeting, that decision was reversed. 

“When we had our special meeting on Nov. 5, talking about home-based business, at the time, I stated that I fully believed that our current LDRs could be enforced with regards to some violations that had been sent out,” Clinton McCahill, the city’s attorney, said before the board.  

“Since that time, I’ve had the chance to review a relatively recent state statute that basically preempts local government’s ability to regulate home businesses, and I believe it would be in the best interest of the city and our community to have a motion to rescind those notices of violation and direct me to review and possibly rewrite our LDRs.” 

Both violations in question involve the operation of businesses in designated residential areas. Port St. Joe’s current land development regulations prohibit the use of residential properties for businesses involving heavy machinery or unreasonably loud noises. 

Concerns over ambiguous wording were first raised with Commissioner for Group IV Steve Hoffman after the two residents recieved violation notices.

Their chief complaint, Hoffman said, was that the letters did not clearly stare what their exact transgressions were. 

However, because in both cases the residents had received business licensing and had signed binding agreements to follow the city’s land development regulations, commissioners at first voted to allow the violations to proceed. 

Though the city attorney’s advice caused the board to reconsider that decision, commissioners were clear that the businesses in question would eventually be required to relocate.

“I think you’ve gotta read this thing front to back and side to side, and we still have LDRs, and we still have ordinances that can be applied to these statues that, with their restrictions and our restrictions, it’s gonna be more strict than what we’ve got,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett.

“Everybody needs to understand that we’re not opening doors here and carving out permission to come into town and open up a business right next to a nice home,” he continued. 

After comments were heard from Commissioners Ashbrook, Lowry and Hoffman, a motion was made and unanimously passed to follow the attorney’s advice. 

Further discussion on the city’s land development regulations is expected in the coming weeks.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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