The Fort Myers Beach Town Council discussed issues involved in the Town's current noise ordinance as well as other codes and offered proposed changes for better enforcement at a Town Hall workshop last week. The Town's Local Planning Agency may review such issues possibly during its February meeting.
Currently, the Lee County Sheriff's Office is not enforcing the Town noise ordinance due to certain provisions that are said to be contradictory and others that are subject to challenge based on the recent Florida Supreme Court decision in State vs. Catalano, according to Town records. Sheriff officials sent out an advisement to that degree to the Beach as well as Lee County and Bonita Springs, two other affected governmental agencies. County police are still able to cite violations that are determined to violate Florida's "breach of peace" statute.
Council members agreed the noise ordinance as it is now written needs revision, particularly the location of where sound decibel levels are monitored.
Beach Mayor Alan Mandel likes the way Naples has modified its noise ordinance in light of the "Catalano" decision and asked Town officials if that particular ordinance could be studied more.
"In the meantime, we should ask the Sheriff's office if they would enforce it if that was our ordinance," he said. "That would be a good starting point."
Besides reaching the Sheriff's office, Mandel asked Town Manager Terry Stewart to research how many people are doing code work for the Beach. Two code officers and proposed ambassadors were listed, while Beach Patrol officers do some of the tasks. Council would like to know the enforcement ability with Beach Patrol.
Council also asked Stewart to see if LCSO would be willing to bring neighborhood research officers back to the Beach. These officers were said to be a force during pre-Hurricane Charley. The storm and the economic downturn helped erase the police substation that was situated in Lynn Hall Park. The resource officers used to patrol the Beach via foot and bicycle prior to that time.
"I will find out if they are willing to bring the resource officers back and if they can do that in the same manner they used to at no cost. And, if not, what would be the additional cost if we want that," said Stewart.
Town Attorney Marilyn Miller will be looking into the Town code book to see what changes or adjustments, if any, can be made to Town codes related to noise and other issues. She suggested changing clauses in ordinance language to allow code enforcement officers to help enforce litterbugs.
The Marine Resources Task Force, a Town advisory committee, has been working on updating an informational brochure to possibly be disseminated to condo associations, hotels and resorts and be placed at different Beach sites, such as the FMB Chamber's tourist informational trailer.
"They just finished them with the anticipation of giving them to the Beach Patrol guys, so that they can provide the education as part as being the island's ambassador," said Councilman Dan Andre, MRTF's liaison.
MRFT is also completing work on an "Adopt-a-Beach" program. That program would allow certain area businesses or residents to police their own region of the beachfront and foster feelings of pride and ownership as volunteers begin to care for "their" beach. That would provide another source for unofficial code enforcement.