Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 18, 2921
At their June 15, 2021 Regular Meeting, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) passed three ordinances on First Reading. There will be a Second Reading and Public Hearing at the FBCC’s July 20, 2021 Regular Meeting. The proposed ordinances are briefly presented below. The full ordinance may be found on the City website, www.fbfl.us
Ordinance 2021-21 – “Noise Ordinance” [Approved 4-1, Commissioner Chip Ross dissenting]
The question of acceptable sound limits has come before the FBCC many times over the past months. At its May 18 meeting, the Commission rejected an ordinance that used the “plainly audible” standard and requested that the City Attorney bring back and ordinance that uses a decibel measurement. This latest is a First Reading because it is the first ordinance to set forth decibel limits for residents and businesses.
As proposed, the Ordinance provided an upper limit of 65 decibels for residential areas and 75 decibels for commercial areas. After some debate, four Commissioners agreed to consider 75 decibels as an acceptable limit for both commercial and residential properties. Definitions and exemptions are provided in the ordinance. Fines and penalties are also included, ranging from $250 for a first offense to $5,000 for a habitual offender.
Retired attorney Margaret Davis addressed the FBCC. While not agreeing on decibel readings, she complimented the commissioners for coming up with a compromise. She said that the 75 decibel limit will place Fernandina Beach in the company of Sarasota, Key West, and Jacksonville Beach who have the loudest sound limits in Florida. She said that while such a limit may be acceptable in commercial areas, it does not “follow the science” for residential areas. She suggested that the 75 decibel limit may subject the City to legal challenges, since that level exceeds safety thresholds set by the World Health Organization and the EPA. “I cannot in any way support moving to a 75 decibel limit for residential properties,” she concluded.
Vice Mayor Len Kreger said that while he supported the previous “plainly audible” standard, he would support the new ordinance. He said that its success will be determined by its enforcement ability. Commissioner Ross said he believed 75 decibels is too high for residential properties and would consider 70 decibels. He received no support from other commissioners.
In response to a question from Ross, City Manager Dale Martin said that once the ordinance is finally adopted, it would take 30-60 days to implement. The cost of training and equipment was estimated at $35,000 -50,000. Martin said that the City will not order the equipment until the Ordinance is adopted possibly after Second Reading. “We’ve been here before,” he said.
The ordinance was approved 4-1 on First Reading with Ross voting against.
Ordinance 2021-22 – Alcohol [Approved 4-1, Vice Mayor Len Kreger dissenting]
As part of the City Attorney’s review of the Code of Ordinances, this Ordinance was presented to the Commission as an update to Chapter 10, Alcohol.
Changes include addition of some definitions and adding an exemption for breastfeeding mothers in Section 10-3. The third change is an expansion of Section 10-4, which prohibits open containers in motor vehicles, but now provides exceptions for charter buses and other licensed chauffeur services to allow their patrons to have alcohol in the vehicles. This exemption is presented at the request of local chartered vehicle services, is consistent with state and federal regulations, and has been reviewed by the Police Department and City Attorney.
Ross said that the proposed changes basically follow the state statute.
Dan Dailey, who operates Historic Tours, addressed the FBCC. He said that he receives regular request from passengers to be able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage as they are being driven around in tour vehicles (12-15 passenger vans). He clarified that he was only supporting this move for small vehicles, not large buses and tour groups. He also supported the introduction of plastic glasses and cups, to eliminate any potential safety problem with broken glass.
The ordinance was approved 4-1 on First Reading. Vice Mayor Kreger voted in opposition to this ordinance, but provided no reason.
Ordinance 2021-23 – Mobile Food Trucks [Approved 5-0]
City Attorney Tammi Bach advised the FBCC that up to now, the City has not permitted mobile food trucks. However, the Florida Legislature recently passed a Statute 509.102 preempting local regulation of mobile food dispensing. Bach said that the proposed ordinance permits these vehicles on City property and rights-of-way with approval by the City Manager. Bach said that by state law the City cannot require an operational license or any regulatory permit.
Two speakers supported the ordinance. Local musician Brian Ernst said that he believed food trucks would be a “tremendous asset” to the community. He said that they provide opportunity for small business to start up. Kelsey Warren followed Ernst. Her family owns Indulge food truck, which they have operated for 5 years in Nassau County and Jacksonville. She said that they were looking forward to being able to operate in Fernandina Beach.
Vice Mayor Len Kreger expressed hope that the approval process would not be onerous; Commissioner David Sturges asked for assurances that food trucks be required to carry insurance.
The ordinance was approved 5-0 on First Reading.