By a vote of 3-2 the Fort Myers Beach town council directed staff to start the process of rolling back an ordinance passed last year that required all new and replacement windows, that can be seen from the beach, use glass with an inside to outside light transmittance value of 15% or less.
The Marine Resources Task Force committee recommended the town place a moratorium on implementing the ordinance for one year and increase enforcement. Councilman Jim Atterholt said that recommendation didn’t go far enough. He said 15% assumes everyone is a bad actor.
When visitors and residents who stay or live on the beach follow the rules by closing their blinds and turning off lights that face the beach during turtle season, there is no chance turtles will become disoriented from artificial lighting. Last year this town council decided a new law would cause the behavior of those who disregard the turtles to change. As you can see by this picture of Sea Watch taken by Turtle Time on Sunday night, the law didn’t change a thing for the people in that building.
The council passed the ordinance, despite the state only requiring window tint at 45%. Condo association owners were livid when they found out about the change. They objected for several reasons. They said the new glass turns their units dark during the day, blocking out the sunlight, one of the biggest reasons they moved to the beach. They also said the 15% glass was much more expensive and harder to find. Many condo buildings are in the process of replacing their windows.
During turtle nesting season, any light that can be seen from the beach must be either blocked or turtle friendly. Non turtle approved lights can disorient hatchlings sending them away from the ocean which is where they need to go if they have any chance of survival.
Councilman Atterholt, who lives in a condo unit on the beach, fought hard to reverse the 15% rule. “People who live on the beach are good actors. I think the answer is tougher enforcement. Fines will skyrocket enforcement. (Going back to) 45% assumes good will of the citizenry. 15% glass is extreme. It’s really draconian. That view is spectacular.” He believes forcing the 15% on people will impact the quality of their lives.
Councilman Dan Allers agreed with Atterholt. “We got it wrong and we need to correct it.” Councilman Bill Veach didn’t agree at all. He said the difference in the 15% and 45% is almost trivial. Veach and Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros voted against rolling back the ordinance.
We reached out to Island Winds condo association president Dave Nusbaum about the direction the ordinance is headed. “I was initially disappointed that the ordinance was not being re-written on the spot ,as have some other ordinances on their first readings, but I am encouraged the counsel ultimately voted to change the ordinance back to the Florida standard of .45 tint. Albeit 3-2. There were many interested parties that could not attend to add their voices. We will have to wait and see what the final version says from the staff.”
John King, who is an Island’s End resident, and a candidate for Town Council said, “I’ll say it’s nice to make headway on the 45% vs 15% tint issue. Thanks to Mayor Murphy, Councilman Allers and Councilman Atterholt it now moves to a first reading and a second reading. I’ll be surprised if MRTF and Turtle don’t get involved by then. I was disappointed that there was no response to my solution to handle sea turtle disorientation. That’s what the whole ordinance is about, whether it’s indoor or outdoor lighting. I believe working with FGCU, Turtle Time or some other organization to guide disoriented turtles back to the water would have eliminated the 6 disorientations that happened last year and any possible future disorientations.”
You can expect to see more tickets handed out by code enforcement if lights are left on when they are supposed to be turned off. Condo Association’s have vowed to continue to educate their residents and visitors about the rules to protect the turtles. Atterholt said, “there has to be strict enforcement. Everyone has to play by the same rules.?