Swing vote, or deciding vote, but the correct vote.
At the March 2 Ocean Ridge commission meeting (my last meeting as vice mayor), I was personally admonished by a resident for my vote on regulating synthetic grass. I was told that my vote in favor of this ordinance on second reading would be a disservice to the residents that I was elected to support.
The unfavorable comments went further, suggesting that by moving from Ocean Ridge, I no longer cared that a group of residents wanted me to vote against Ordinance 2019-15.
To say that I was taken aback would be a gross understatement.
It was definitely not the way I wanted my last meeting as vice mayor to end.
I was elected to the Town Commission in 2017 by a 35% voter margin. Those who knew me understood that I would always work hard to preserve the unique ambiance of our community.
My mandate was clear, based on Ocean Ridge’s comprehensive plan, which reads: “Ocean Ridge is a beach-oriented town characterized primarily by single family homes with lush, well- maintained landscaping.”
To my mind, “lush, well-maintained landscaping” did not include synthetic grass.
My involvement during the past three years as a steering committee member of the Southeast PBC Coastal Resilience Partnership and a member of the PBC Water Resources Task Force have provided me with a useful education concerning South Florida’s water resources. I understand completely the need to reduce water unnecessarily used on residential property. Synthetic grass is a viable option in that regard.
The pros and cons of synthetic grass were well researched and presented at commission meetings. But, without the passage of Ordinance 2019-15, the positive effect and use of synthetic grass will be lost in a maze of personal choice.
To say that my vote was prejudiced based on my moving from Ocean Ridge was a totally unfair tactic. After the comments by the resident — and knowing that I was still planning to vote in favor of Ordinance 2019-15 — the town attorney was asked if I should be recused from voting based on my term ending and my moving from Ocean Ridge. Another ridiculous tactic.
Ocean Ridge is “my hometown.” I voted to keep its “lush, well-maintained landscaping.” I voted understanding the months of work put forth by the Planning and Zoning board drafting the ordinance. I voted understanding that, first and foremost, an ordinance must require a permit to install synthetic grass in order to protect the aesthetics of Ocean Ridge as defined in our comprehensive plan. I voted understanding that a “home rule” ordinance now could protect us from state laws in the future.
Time will tell as to the forethought of P&Z’s drafting Ordinance 2019-15 and the wisdom of three commissioners who approved it by a swing vote, or deciding vote, but the correct vote.
Former vice mayor
Significant research is coming to light now, based primarily on empirical data collected in Asia, that synthetic grass or “AstroTurf” can provide a dangerous breeding ground for covid-19 and similar coronaviruses if not properly and continuously disinfected.
I for one salute you Mr Vice Mayor for having the vision and personal strength to stand up to this growing threat.