Delray Beach: City moves toward county beach-light law

By Tim Pallesen

    The lights on First Presbyterian’s steeple are among those that must be dimmed, shielded or shut off if Delray Beach adopts the county’s sea turtle protection law.

    Oceanfront businesses and residences also would get darker so sea turtles hatchlings can find their way from the beach to the ocean.

    The strict sea turtle protection law is necessary for the city to be eligible for county money to pay for dune restoration projects.

    “I don’t see where we have any choice,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said at an April 8 workshop where staff proposed the sea turtle law.

    “This program is going to impact a lot of businesses,” code enforcement officer Al Berg warned commissioners. “First Presbyterian’s steeple also attracts turtles.”

    Commissioners passed the ordinance unanimously on first reading on April 15. A final public hearing is set for May 6.

    The law bans during turtle nesting season — March through October — decorative lighting visible from the beach if it is not necessary for human safety or security.

    Sea turtle hatchlings emerge from nests at night, recognizing the sea by its naturally bright open horizon. Artificial lighting visible from the beach leads the baby turtles inland where they will not survive.

    “This law isn’t only good for the sea turtles,” said Jacey Biery, a county environmental resources management analyst. “It also brings back the starry skies.”

    The Marriott hotel, the Sandbar tiki bar and other businesses on Ocean Boulevard near Atlantic Avenue may be required to turn off signs and other unnecessary lights to comply, city and county officials said.

    “We will work with them the best we can for a solution,” Biery said. “But lights can’t be visible from the beach either directly or indirectly by causing illumination.”

    Some violators may be given the opportunity to retrofit existing lighting fixtures by adding sheet metal shields so stray light doesn’t reach to the beach. Amber LED lightbulbs also may be substituted at some locations to reduce glare.

    The law also requires that all beach furniture be removed each night to make movement easier for sea turtles. A turtle surveyor must give approval each morning before the furniture can be returned to the municipal beach.

    Coastal municipalities have the option to either let the county enforce its turtle protection law on their beaches or to adopt a municipal law that is equally strict.

    Manalapan opted into the county law and Ocean Ridge is working to do the same. Boca Raton chose to adopt and enforce its own law.

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