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Town Commission meeting to include Hurricane Ian report, smoking ban

Town Commissioners will hear from Town Manager Tom Harmer about the town's response to Hurricane Ian and efforts moving forward.

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  • | 4:53 p.m. October 10, 2022
Cleanup and repairs on Longboat Key have been underway since the passage of Hurricane Ian two weeks ago. (Lesley Dwyer)
Cleanup and repairs on Longboat Key have been underway since the passage of Hurricane Ian two weeks ago. (Lesley Dwyer)
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After the town postponed a pair of public meetings because of the effects of Hurricane Ian, Town Commissioners will gather on Monday, Oct. 17 to consider an agenda full of key issues.

Though additional measures could be added still, topics up for consideration are generally hold overs from the scheduled Oct. 3 meeting. Commissioners did meet that day briefly to pass the city budget, itself a meeting that was postponed from late September, 

Town Manager Tom Harmer will give a report on how the town fared during the hurricane and the current operations to clean up after the storm.

Among the other topics of interest include:

 Beach-park smoking ban

Main aspects of the agenda include the likely approval of the beach smoking ban and changes to code enforcement. Both were initially approved during their first reading at the commission’s Sept. 12 meeting. 

The smoking ban, if passed, would not hinder use of unfiltered cigars and pipe tobacco use, which is protected by state law. 

Before the commission’s traditional summer hiatus in July, commissioners got the ball rolling on the matter, asking not just for discussion, but for town staff to have an ordinance prepared by the time they returned in September. 

The first reading of the ordinance passed unanimously even with comments from commissioners about redundancy of the ordinance, if its main focus was to reduce littering. 

Consideration of the ban is only possible because of recent statewide legislation, Florida’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which was signed into law June 24 and took effect July 1. 

Approval of the ban would follow suit for a ban recently approved by the Sarasota City Commission. Other local jurisdictions have also discussed smoking bans including Holmes Beach and the City of Venice. Sarasota County has also been in talks about a ban with the potential for upcoming approval. 

 Code enforcement changes

Changes to code enforcement will also go through second reading and public hearing Monday. 

The ordinance reflects the make-up, organization and hearing processes, following a special magistrate replacing the code enforcement board in 2019. Changes to existing fees are only reductions, no existing fees are raised. 

One of the most noteworthy changes includes violation reporting. Due to a state bill that went into effect July 1, 2021, anonymity of those reporting a violation is no longer an option. 

If passed, some codes will be added to the list of ones eligible for immediate citation rather than needing to go through the hearing process. Codes added to the citation list include dogs or cats prohibited on beaches, property maintenance standards, sound regulations, spotlights or floodlights and the town’s code that regulates size and placement of temporary signs. 

On the agenda are reports, which include discussion on Florida City Government Week, which runs from Oct. 17 through Oct. 21 and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Harmer's contract

Items on the consent agenda, meaning no commissioner discussion will occur and likely all will pass unanimously, include Town Manager Tom Harmer’s contract extension to cover time between his original end date and Howard Tipton’s start date, which is set at Jan. 30, 2023. 

Harmer’s new end date under the extended contract is Feb. 6, 2023 rather than Dec. 10. In the terms of the new contract, Harmer will receive a 3% raise starting October through his final day serving the town. His request for a housing allowance and permission to work with his son outside of town business is also included in the contract. 

 Other issues

The preliminary schedule for commission meetings for 2023 will be approved. In 2023, the commission’s summer hiatus will run from July 17 through Sept. 11. 

A fee waiver, also included as a consent item, is being requested by the Paradise Center for the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk scheduled for Oct. 22. 

The town has entered into a special counsel engagement agreement with Garcia Dell, who will act as special litigation counsel for the town in the Schweitzer, et al v. Town of Longboat Key litigation case. The agreement was already executed between the town and Garcia Dell on Sept. 26, but the commission is being asked to ratify it. 

Under the town attorney comments section, there is a space that notes that an alternate special magistrate will also be approved. The town currently only has one special magistrate that is responsible for hearing cases monthly. 



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