By Larry Barszewski
Briny Breezes officials are considering a citation system to enforce applicable town codes, but they have to decide if some of the infractions should even be on the town’s books in the first place.
“Something as simple as spitting on sidewalks, that’s not something that I think you want the Police Department enforcing,” Ocean Ridge Police Chief Richard Jones said at the Town Council’s July 28 meeting. His department provides police services to the town.
The council’s goal is to have a system, similar to one in place in Ocean Ridge, that would allow police to ticket code violators. The fines for the offenses would be fixed at a set amount and violations would not have to go before a special magistrate.
“Many of the listed violations do not lend themselves to traditional code enforcement, where you would go before a special magistrate and seek daily fines until there’s compliance,” Town Attorney Keith Davis said.
But Jones, who was originally receptive to the idea, was surprised by what his officers might have to undertake.
“I did not anticipate seeing such a broad list of ordinances that were being expected for us to enforce through the citation process,” Jones said.
The codes also include many violations already covered by state law, he said.
The council asked Davis to meet with Jones to narrow the scope of what ordinances would be good to have in a citation program, leading to another issue.
“If you can’t or you’re not going to enforce them, do you want to keep them on the books at all? That’s a much bigger discussion, but that may be a discussion that needs to happen,” Davis said.
The council agreed and said it would be good to do a deep dive into the town’s ordinances and winnow out code violations that aren’t needed or could be covered in the corporation’s regulations instead.
Among the items covered by the ordinances are requiring a bell or horn on a bicycle, prohibiting spitting on sidewalks and other public places, disturbing religious worship, not allowing bike riders on sidewalks and even outlawing things like odor and “unnecessary noises.”
When the ordinances to be enforced through citations are determined, Davis suggested breaking them into categories with differing fines:
• Class 1 (less severe) violations: $50 fine for a first offense, $100 for second, $250 for third and $500 for fourth and subsequent violations. Examples could include careless riding of a bicycle or gambling.
• Class 2 (midrange) violations: $100 for first offense, $200 for second, $300 for third and $500 for fourth and subsequent violations. Examples could include having a fire on the beach or indecent exposure.
• Class 3 (more serious) violations: $250 for first offense and $500 for each subsequent violation. Examples could include building a fire without a permit or damaging dune vegetation.
“Regardless of the class, I think there are a lot of things on here that should be removed,” Alderman Bill Birch said. “I don’t know anybody in Briny Breezes that is going to call the police over odor.”
Davis is expected to bring back additional information for the council’s Aug. 25 meeting.
Shooting in town
In other matters, Jones briefed the council on a shooting that took place in the town between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m. on July 27.
“The victim in this case is doing well, is recovering,” Jones said. “This seems to be a very specific, isolated incident and I would not be concerned for the public safety of every other resident at this moment in time. If we get to a point in our investigation where we change that, we will definitely let the community know.”
When contacted by The Coastal Star following the meeting, Jones said he would not release the police report because it is an active investigation.
Update: The Police Department released a copy of the police report on Aug. 3. It said the 70-year-old victim told police she had been sleeping, but woke up at 11:30 p.m. in pain. When she went to the bathroom at about 1:30 a.m., she noticed she had been shot in the hand near the wrist. A neighbor who drove the woman to the hospital told police she heard what could have been a gun shot sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m., but wasn't certain. The victim told police she lives alone and there are no guns in her home. The bullet was lodged in the woman's hand when she went to the hospital, the report said.
Tax rate’s a 10 — again
The Town Council also set the town’s preliminary tax rate, which continues to be at the maximum allowed under state law, of $10 for every $1,000 of taxable value. That amounts to a 13.3% tax increase due to rising property values in town. The first public hearing on the town’s budget and tax rate will be at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 8 at Town Hall.