Longboat Key has higher sea turtle disorientation rates than many surrounding areas, according to FWC data.
The Longboat Key Town Commission will consider a formal ordinance revising sea turtle protections.
Commissioners reached a consensus Monday to hold the first reading of an ordinance as soon as May 3.
“We’re a barrier island. We don’t necessarily decide that we want to have turtles come,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “They come naturally, and try to find that balance so that we have a productive beach for them to nest and not distract them. And, how do we that in a way that’s reasonable to our Gulf-front residents?”
Monday marked the third commission workshop where commissioners had discussed the proposals. Longboat Key is proposing upgrading its marine life protections because of the town’s high number of disorientations compared to nearby areas, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data.
“We haven’t really figured out what it is that makes us worse than neighboring [areas like] Siesta Key,” said Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon.
The proposed changes address lighting impacts to sea turtles for nesting and obstructions on the beach.
The town’s proposals include requiring exterior sources of artificial light visible from the beach to be turtle-friendly bulbs, prohibiting beach furniture to be within 5 feet of marked marine turtle nests, adding language to explain the permitting review process, adding a lighting inspection process for new developments, allowing the use of permitted motorized vehicles to retrieve beach furniture on the beach, prohibiting temporary lights such as lanterns or tiki torches and nightly storage of portable recreational equipment.
Initially, town staff considered window tinting as a potential resolution to fix beachfront-lighting issues, though price considerations in switching from 45% of light transmission to 15% proved overwhelming.
PGT Custom Windows + Doors senior compliance engineer Erin Koss explained to commissioners that there is a significant price difference for darker tinted glass.
“The price difference for us from a glass manufacturer’s [standpoint] is four times more expensive, so the darker is four times more,” Koss said. “What that goes to the property or the homeowner is different because we sell to the distributor, they then have their own pricing [and] markup.”
Longboat Key’s current ordinance has been in effect since 1987, and applies during the sea turtle nesting season from May 1 through Oct. 31.
Harmer said if commissioners adopt the proposals after a second reading, they would take effect the following sea turtle season to account for a six-month implementation period.
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