A one-year delay on the implementation of an ordinance mandating a restrictive .15 tinting for replacement glass windows, and new windows, garnered some support from members of the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council Monday though no conclusion was reached.
Several representatives of local condominium associations spoke out at Monday’s Town of Fort Myers Beach Council meeting to call for a change to a town ordinance passed last year mandating .15 tinting for replacement and new windows, and to instead follow a state guideline for .45 tinting .
The town’s Marine Resources Task Force has supported a one-year delay on the implementation as a compromise over concerns about the increased costs the .15 tinting-glass would bring.
The tinting rules, passed last year to protect nesting sea turtles from indoor lights that could cause disorientations, had apparently caught part of the town council by surprise. At least two members of the town board said they hadn’t been aware of the change to the town’s ordinance when they passed it.
Dave Nusbaum, President of the Island Winds Condominium Association, had brought attention to the issue in March, explaining that his association had sought to replace its windows with a .30 tint but had to stop its project over the new regulations. At least one other residential building had to put off their window replacement project.
Nusbaum said the town should follow the state’s template ordinance of .45 tint for new buildings.
At Monday’s meeting, Nusbaum said an “onerous ordinance that puts us in darkness for 12 months of the year” was not the solution to turtle disorientations, which were down last year. “Education and participation for the visitors that come down to this beach are the key.”
Bill Althoff, president of the Shamron Beach Condominium Association, called on the town to reconsider the .15 ordinance. With 54 residents, Althoff said the building is planning on a window replacement project on the Gulf side to bring the windows up to code. “The .15 glass adds significant cost to our project. I want to convey our support to all the turtle protections you have in place in the all-important nesting and hatching season. It’s great that the council has been so proactive, thoughtful and protective of these endangered species. We all share your support for this. It was Darwin who said the love of all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”
Town Councilmember Jim Atterholt said the .15 tinting ordinance was the wrong approach and wants the town to require a less-restrictive .45 tinting for windows. “We ought to assume that people who live along the beach are good actors and wish to protect the turtle population,” Atterholt said.
Atterholt said lighting violations are an issue. “I acknowledge that the problem is real and that it exists,” Atterholt said. Atterholt said the issue wasn’t so much the tinting of the windows but compliance with closing blinds at night as evidenced by a recent photograph of some buildings at night recently. “My turtle friends say that 45% (tinting) is ineffective. It’s only ineffective if you don’t close your blinds and you don’t close your shades.”
Atterholt said he supported more enforcement. The town’s environmental project manager Chadd Chustz handles the issuing of violations to property owners for lighting violations though the town typically prefers educating homeowners, though fines can be issued to violators.
Hernstadt said condo building owners or hotels could take proactive measures to ensure seasonal visitors or short-term renters are following the law.
“Have somebody on your staff who is running around taking care of the place anyway, go out to the beach as part of their duties at night, look up at your building,” Hernstadt said. “You can look up at your own building and you can see if there are potential issues and you can begin to address those internally without the town’s involvement.”
Hernstadt said a decision hasn’t been made yet on how the town will change its ordinance on window tinting. The town council will need to approve a change to its ordinance.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said she supported the one-year delay of the .15 tint requirement, as the Marine Resources Task Force suggested while the town reconsiders the tinting rules. “I am pleased with the recommendations,” Hosafros said. “It seems to be a reasonable request.”
Hernstadt said he believes the town will alter the tinting rules. “I think there is going to be some relief,” Hernstadt said. “Just how that will look, I don’t know yet.”