by: Emily McLeod
FREEPORT, Fla. (WMBB) — A Freeport business owner said she’s facing an uphill battle against Walton County code compliance.
The owner of Horse Power Pavilion, Kate Holland, said code compliance has been to her property a multitude of times since 2018 but county officials said they aren’t treating her any differently than anyone else.
Code compliance said Horse Power Pavilion is holding activities outside of their development order but Holland said it’s just not fair.
Holland moved to America from the United Kingdom in 2018 with her husband and two kids. Holland had the dream of opening her own business in Freeport, but now she said it’s been an awful experience.
“I’m not an emotional person, but this isn’t right,” Holland said. “Do you know for three years I’ve battled and battled, I open a wedding venue, it gets closed, I open a coffee shop I’m allowed to run it for 6 months and it gets closed. I open food trailers two years later, they’re getting closed, I open a bar and it’s getting closed.”
Holland said despite trying to do the right thing, she said she’s stopped at every turn.
“I try to move forward and every time I just get knocked back and I firmly believe it’s because I’m not from here, probably not got the right surname, and you know it wasn’t someone else’s idea but I didn’t move here to get thrown in with the piranha fish, I just wanted to do something nice,” Holland said.
Horse Power Pavilion was supposed to include a bistro. However, when COVID-19 hit Holland’s plans changed. She turned to food trucks to keep her doors open.
Holland said the state issued her a permit which allowed her to operate food trucks for a year but the county said they could only open for six months.
She said when the state came by to inspect the food trucks, she said they told her she should be operating because her permits were still in good standing.
“Well, and that’s what the statute says, but I think there is some misinformation or misunderstanding,” said Code Compliance Manager, Mike Lynch. “The magistrate at the last hearing had advised them that they weren’t to hold any other activities except for what was approved for in their development order.”
Lynch said additional structures like the bar and elevated stage weren’t ever mentioned when Horse Power Pavilion was approved.
“It’s never been inspected, nobody can say this is going to meet any sort of weight load so, from a public safety standpoint, the county wants to make sure that they submit the engineering plans for those and that all the permits are obtained, and inspections done, before the county signs off on it,” Lynch said.
Since her last hearing on October 20, Holland has submitted two more permits for her food trucks, she is submitting an engineering drawing and is trying to pull bathroom permits for her bistro.
“Every time they tell me to do something, I do it,” Holland said. “When I got called to court, I had 32 permits. If I was someone that didn’t do things correctly, I would have no permits. A permit costs 70 to 200 dollars an attorney costs 20,000 dollars. Why would I not just get the permit? You know what I mean?”
Holland will have another hearing on Wednesday, December 15 at 2:00 p.m. at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
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