- May 11, 2011
Raccoons have become the talk of the town again on Longboat Key.
The barrier island and surrounding areas have always had some issues with the so-called "trash pandas," but they have gained the spotlight again.
Resident John Frank has expressed continual issues with a nearby dumpster at restaurant Euphemia Haye. Frank, who lives near the restaurant, has a photo and video of dozens of raccoons scurrying around the dumpster and its gate after dark. The video was shown to town commissioners Monday, eliciting gasps from those at the meeting.
“That’s an unforgivable, unacceptable scene that we just saw,” Mayor Ken Schneier said of the video shown to commissioners and audience members.
Frank says the state of the dumpster provides a sizable nuisance to himself and nearby property owners.
“I have recently learned in the last month of a number of our neighbors that have been attacked, both themselves and their pets, by raccoons that frequent the dumpster at Euphemia Haye,” he said. “...What has happened is the raccoons are no longer satisfied with frequenting the dumpster area. They have gone out into the neighborhood.”
He recounted instances of raccoons acting as greeters at the doors of the restaurant, friends and neighbors wary of taking usual walks in the neighborhood and a friend carrying a golf club with him on walks with his dog to ward off any aggressive raccoons.
Commissioner Debra Williams recalled an email she had received from a neighbor about a year ago regarding an issue with raccoons at the same restaurant.
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons said he wasn't aware of that complaint, but the town has been working with Euphemia Haye to see if another type of dumpster might solve the issue.
“Our code enforcement officer has made contact with the restaurant to let them know about this and help facilitate a replacement dumpster,” Parsons said.
According to Euphemia Haye owner Amy Whitt, the new dumpster was already purchased by the town and is now in its new home.
"There's only so much we can do," she said. "More people might be seeing us have this issue than other restaurants because of the location of our dumpster."
The dumpster sits in the restaurant parking lot as there is no other place for it, she said.
"We don't want to put anyone in danger," she said. "We just ask customers not feed or approach them."
Whitt hopes the town will take a larger step into the situation and begin keeping tabs on the raccoons that live in Joan Durante Park, which is right next door to the restaurant and makes the dumpster the closest food source.
The removal of the raccoons is a bit of a tricky subject, Parsons said. This is largely in part because Florida Fish and Wildlife does not consider raccoons to be a nuisance species.
“Even if there isn’t a specific tightly closed dumpster regulation, it’s pretty clear that what’s going on at that site would rise to the level of a public nuisance,” Schneier said.
While neither Schneier or other commissioners had a clear answer on how to solve the issue, they were all in agreement that something has to be done — and soon.
“I think it’s incumbent on us to ensure there isn’t an issue of these raccoons being rabid,” Commissioner Sherry Dominick. “First of all, there are numerous of them and some of them may be rabid.”
In hopes of addressing this issue and others, the town is in the process of formally adopting new property maintenance codes with the help of the International Property Maintenance Code standards. The new code would help residents and the town ensure garbage cans and dumpsters are not left out or open and uncovered.
The current code does not require dumpsters and garbage cans have lids that are closed and secured, but, if adopted, the new code would make this an enforceable offense.
Residents would also not be allowed to leave their garbage cans at the end of a driveway for longer than 48 hours before or after their designated pickup date.
However, commissioners were mindful of making the rules reasonable for residents to follow and the town to enforce. Commissioners added a revision to this effect to the code.
The Commission unanimously voted to forward the revised code to its March 6 regular meeting for second reading and adoption.