The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council is reconsidering an ordinance passed last year to tighten tinting standards on windows for new construction or window replacements.
The ordinance, approved in April, was meant to protect nesting sea turtles from glaring lights from homes and businesses facing the Gulf of Mexico.The ordinance was approved unanimously by the board and placed tighter restrictions on outdoor lighting for new construction, as new regulations for indoor lighting, parking lot lighting and new windows.
Dave Nusbaum, President of the Island Winds Condominium Association, said the ordinance would subject his association and others replacing windows to higher costs due to a more stringent regulation for the tinting of glass. Nusbaum believes the town shouldn’t have gone further than the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s model lighting ordinance for sea turtle protection.
“That was a template that they gave to all of the municipalities so that everyone could be on the same ordinance throughout the state,” Nussbaum said.
The town reduced its tint requirements down to a .15 tint and made it for not only for new construction but for window replacement projects, requiring new glass to have an inside to outside transmittance value of 15 percent or less. Nusbaum said the state’s template ordinance of .45 tint was for new buildings and was silent on tint going into existing structures.
Nusbaum said the new town rule imposes an undue burden on many condominiums located on Fort Myers Beach. Nusbaum called the ordinance well-intended but with “unintended consequences.”
The town’s ordinance doesn’t have any grandfathering for replacement project. Island Winds Condominium Association is in the midst of a 10-year project to replace the glass windows in its units with a .30 tint that it started three years ago. Nusbaum said the cost for replacing glass windows with a .30 tint is approximately $10,000 for an average unit with two sliding doors and windows facing the beach. Based on the ordinance, the rest of the units would have to be replaced with a more costlier .15 tint. The cost has gone up due to supply shortages, inflation and a limited number of installers, he said.
The board of directors at Mariner’s Boathouse & Beach Resort at 7630 Estero Boulevard wrote a letter to the town this month stating that its three-story, 22-unit timeshare was looking to replace its 40-year-old glass doors at a cost of more than half a million dollars. However, that cost estimate was based on the .45 state-accepted standard not the costlier standard of the town. “Revisiting the approval process with the new 15% requirement will likely mean we will not be replacing the sliding doors anytime soon,” the board wrote. The board cited cost and product availability as factors to the delay of their project. “The door replacement project has been put on hold as we struggled to even find vendors with this glass in stock,” the board wrote.
If the town had not adopted the new ordinance, the board said its sliding doors would have been replaced by now with 45% tinted glass but instead remain untinted, the board wrote.
Town of Fort Myers Beach Environmental Project Manager Chadd Chustz stated in an email that he “was tasked with putting the Town’s Sea Turtle Conservation Ordinance in consultation with” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Marine Turtle Permit Holder for Estero Island. Chustz did not respond to a follow-up question as to why the town went further below the state’s model ordinance for tint on windows.
After Nusbaum’s initial presentation to the council this month, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy said the council would correct the ordinance if necessary.
“We don’t always get it right,” Murphy said. “It’s conceivable that we could do something wrong. I am not saying that we did in this particular case but it’s entirely possible and if we did it than it should be corrected.”
Council member Dan Allers said he was open to “revisiting this very cost-prohibitive part of the code that we passed.” Allers said he supported the ordinance the council passed but “I must have just not caught” the measure regarding the window tinting.
Council member Bill Veach said it was “worth re-evaluating” the ordinance, which he said was “Not a solution in search of a problem. There was a problem with disorientations (of sea turtles) and that’s the reason it came on but unintended consequences.”
“We understand everybody’s need to protect the turtles. This is too far from a pendulum swing,” Nussbaum said. “It is our hope we can find a balance protecting the critical hatching of the turtles and the thousands of condominium owners on Fort Myers Beach.”
Nusbaum said he was encouraged by the response from the council. “I think we got their attention,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding.”
The town is looking into what other municipalities have done with regulations regarding window tinting, Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said.
“We’re looking at what other cities and counties are doing.”
The turtle-nesting season starts at the end of April.
Council kicks one-wheeled vehicles to the curb
The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council also voted this month to amend its ordinance which banned the use of electric bikes on sidewalks, to include any one-wheel devices such as motorized scooters, electric skateboards or hover boards.
The updated ordinance does not extend to any motorized wheelchairs or other handicapped transportation, which can remain on sidewalks.