By Joe Capozzi
A proposed new citation system for Briny Breezes would allow police to issue tickets to people who violate any of six prohibitions in the town code, including riding a bicycle without a bell or horn and allowing dogs to run free on the beach.
If the measure is approved on second reading later this year, the fines for infractions would be fixed at a set amount and would not have to go to a special magistrate, a process that can be lengthy and costly.
“The code enforcement process by citation is very simplistic because it’s done-and-over now versus the process that involves many man hours and legal counsel,’’ Ocean Ridge Police Chief Richard Jones told the Town Council on Sept. 22.
A similar citation method is currently used by Ocean Ridge, which provides police services for Briny Breezes.
“It allows us to resolve it at our level in the very beginning and if the person does not wish to pay it, they can contest it. But if they pay it’s all done and over. It does not incur huge costs to the town’s expense,’’ Jones said.
When council members first debated the new system in July, they directed Jones and Town Attorney Keith Davis to whittle down a lengthy list of infractions on the town’s books, including prostitution and violations for spitting and odor.
Because many of those infractions are already covered by state law and others have rarely if ever been enforced, Davis and Jones came up with six that would be enforced under the new citation method.
Those codes are: requirements for each bicycle to have a bell or horn and, if ridden at night, lights; rules about the use of public and private beaches; rules prohibiting the obstruction of streets and sidewalks; and restrictions on fireworks and a prohibition on the release of balloons and sky lanterns just passed in June.
Under the new system, the fireworks violations would carry a $250 fine for a first offense, the balloons and sky lanterns a $100 first offense and all others a $50 first offense.
“These provisions lend themselves to a more efficient enforcement mechanism through the citation method,’’ Davis said. “But strictly speaking, anything in the Briny Breezes code can be handled through the special magistrate process.’’
Council President Sue Thaler cast the lone no vote on first reading of the ordinance. At the beginning of the meeting, she tried unsuccessfully to postpone the vote because she said she received revised backup material for the proposed ordinance just two hours before the start of the Sept. 22 meeting.
In other business:
• Police have identified a suspect in the July 27 shooting of a Briny Breezes woman, but the 71-year-old victim, who suffered a gunshot wound to the hand, has refused to cooperate with the investigation and the case was closed, Chief Jones told the council.
“It is our belief through our investigation that this was an isolated incident that was related to a family member who was probably taking advantage of the victim financially and therefore had every motive and intent to take care of getting rid of the victim, however failed to do so,’’ Jones said.
• The council 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. But taxes will increase 13.3% because of rising property values in town.
Thaler cast the lone vote against both the tax rate and the town’s $1.4 million budget.
“We have retirees on fixed incomes who are hurting,’’ she said. “I don’t think we need to keep it that high. Maybe we don’t roll it back to the rollback rate (8.8). There must be some in-between millage rate we can land at that would be good for the town and good for our residents.’’ • The council gave final approval to changes that will eliminate a requirement to hold special elections to fill Town Council vacancies and eliminate a deadline for filling vacancies.
The qualifying period for the town’s March 14, 2023, election opens at noon Nov. 8 and closes at noon Nov. 22. Three aldermen seats, all for two-year terms, are up for election: Seat 1 held by Elizabeth Loper, Seat 3 held by Thaler and Seat 5 held by Bill Birch. Prospective candidates should contact Town Clerk Sandi DuBose at 561-272-5495 for filing information.
• The November and December Town Council meetings will be combined and held Dec. 8 at 4 p.m.