One year after the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council instituted a 15% tint requirement for new and replacement windows, councilmembers voted to reverse the tint standard back to 45% on Monday.
The lesser tint is meant to accommodate several condo association boards who had protested the stricter tinting requirement as cumbersome and more expensive for window replacement projects that were underground or being planned.
The measure was a defeat for Turtle Time, which attended the meeting to push for the ordinance staying the same. Turtle Time had been successful a year ago in passing the new ordinance meant to protect endangered nesting loggerhead sea turtles.
Council member Bill Veach successfully added a new clause to the ordinance that will require all new windows and replacement windows to have coverings. Veach voted against the ordinance though, as he believed the 15% tint should remain the same.
Veach cited a rash of disorientations among loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings lately. The disorientations have been blamed on light violations emanating primarily from vacation rentals along the beach.
The town’s sea turtle ordinance requires that all outside lights be turned off from 9 pm to 7 pm except for shielded amber lights. All windows are supposed to be covered by blinds after 9 pm Interior lights are also supposed to be restricted if they transmit onto the beach. Inside lights are supposed to be located away from windows at night so they don’t transmit out to the beach.
“What we are doing is not working,” Veach said. “It’s a complete violation of our duties to look after these helpless, endangered species for a matter of convenience.”
Councilmember Dan Allers objected to Veach adding the window covering amendment and had initially sought to block the amendment from even being discussed.
“I don’t think the town is in the business of being an interior designer,” All said. “People aren’t closing their blinds the way it is. If we have a 15% or even 45%, you are basically saying you can’t get an approval, or a sign-off if we don’t get to come in and see what your blinds are. I don’t think that’s the government’s job. The government’s job is to protect the sea turtles, I 100% agree with that. We shouldn’t be in the business of going in to approve somebody’s blinds.”
Veach objected to the characterization of the town getting into the interior design business.
“The government is not acting as an interior designer,” Veach said. Veach said the amendment will not require a certain type of blind, only that it will block interior light. “They just have to effectively block the light,” Veach said.
“To require that someone has to get the approval from town for something that they have to put in that is a decorative feature, doesn’t make sense to me,” All said. “I don’t think it’s a good use of resources.”
Allers said those violating the turtle ordinances and leaving their windows open were visitors who don’t live here and were unaware of the ordinance.
Council member Jim Atterholt said blinds and shades are not just a decorative feature. “The blinds and the shade become a critical piece of the puzzle in preventing disorientations,” Atterholt said. “People have an obligation, a responsibility, those who live on the beach including myself, to live in concert with our marine life. You need to have shades that are appropriate, you need to have blinds that are appropriate, that are going to do the job if this thing is going to do the job at 45%.”
Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield asked the council to keep the 15% tinting requirement through the fall while the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation conducts tests and studies tinting requirements. Haverfield said the state could clarify its recommendations for tinting requirements to protect sea turtles. “Sadly, imploring people to close their drapes has not been effective,” Haverfield said.
Cindy Johnson, a Turtle Time volunteer, also asked the council to keep its 15% tint in place. “People can’t consistently close their blinds and drapes. We see that on a nightly basis,” she said. “We live on a transient island, we have a lot of rentals and it’s not consistent enough to help us. We had seven disorientations so far this year.”
John King, who is running for town council, voiced support at Monday’s meeting for the town reverting back to the 45% tint. “This issue has been sidetracked long enough,” King said. He said the town should follow the state’s model ordinance of 45% tint.