DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. — A Florida
couple is happy to have its long-term legal battle over its
skydiving business finally reach a conclusion in its favor.
James and Melanie Nipper, the owners
of Skydive North Florida in Defuniak Springs, had been involved for
several years in a lawsuit with Walton County over whether they could
use their personal acreage farm for a skydiving business. According
to an Associated Press report, Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal on Jan. 17 reversed a
lower-court ruling that had blocked the Nippers from using their farm
for the skydiving business over zoning issues.
The conclusion from the court,
according to court documents,
was that “the language of Walton County’s zoning code itself is
ambiguous and doesn’t establish the county’s case for the
The court said the county’s
guidelines do not explicitly say they do not allow skydiving.
“My wife and I felt like we were
vindicated. We knew all along the zoning business would allow us to
operate,” Jim Nipper said told the Florida Record.
The Nippers were not happy with their local county government, as
they felt they continued to want to harm their business by filing
suits after a number of years, Jim Nipper said.
“My wife and I feel our local government should work with people
of the county and not against them,” he said.
“This has been off and on since 2008. When we first started
flying skydiver out here, the county would shut us down,” he said.
He said the suit filed by the county was “all about zoning
ordinances and code violations.” The Nippers would would open, then
the county would shut them down, then they would open again, a
routine that went on for months.
Prior to the suit, the Nippers asked the county government for
“The Nippers twice sought permission from the Walton County
Planning Department to operate the skydiving business on their
property,” the suit said.
After asking, the Nippers quickly learned they were declined to
run their business, as the planning and development director said it
was not in line with proper zoning codes.
Jim Nipper made clear that the suit had not hurt or affected
“It’s been the same. We never shut down in over a year. We
were allowed to stay in business while the suit went on,” he said.
In addition to providing services for skydivers, Skydive North
Florida has eight employees and is currently hiring. Jim Nipper also
made clear that he is supportive of his local community and knows his
business brings income to the area economy.
“Most of the customers come off (Interstate 10) and spend at
least $100 on something to eat and fuel. It has definitely helped out
the economy,” he said.
The Nippers were represented by Matt Gaetz, who recently was sworn
in as an U.S. representative from Illinois, according to the
Associated Press report.