Sea turtles that visit town beaches during nesting season will remain under the protective eyes of Palm Beach County environmental officials.
Town commissioners decided at their April meeting not to pass an ordinance proposed by then-Mayor Tom Gerrard early last year that would have shifted monitoring of lights on the beach from the county to Manalapan.
Mayor Pro Tem Donald Brennan said he saw no benefit to the town assuming the responsibility.
“This is a service for which we are now paying. It will not have any reduction in our taxes as a result of doing it ourselves,” he said.
He also saw no gain from having town police patrol the beach for lighting violations more frequently than the county does.
“Manalapan is right now, from an environmental standpoint, the darkest beach on the stretch and the most populated piece of geography for the nesting turtles,” Brennan said. “They’ve been basically driven from Delray, with its luminous lighting, and further north. If you talk to any of the environmental people, you’ll get the same answer: that this 2-and-a-half-, 3-mile stretch is the mecca for the sea turtles.”
Lights are restricted during nesting season to make sure turtle hatchlings can use the moon and stars to locate the ocean without being distracted or disoriented by artificial lighting.
Gerrard, who was putting in new lighting outside his home, had wanted a town ordinance that was less restrictive than the county’s. Commissioner Howard Roder, who opposed the change, accused Gerrard of acting out of self-interest.
Roder and Commissioner Louis DeStefano repeated their earlier opposition to the ordinance, as did Mayor Basil Diamond, who spoke against the proposal as an interested resident before he became a commissioner last year.
“I do feel that it doesn’t benefit the town,” Diamond said before the measure failed on a unanimous vote.
Commissioners also wrestled with whether to allow Australian pines to remain on undeveloped lots and whether to restrict the dimensions of beach houses. They decided to send the issues to the town’s volunteer Landscape Committee and its Zoning Commission.
Brennan reported that Plaza Del Mar has “cautious optimism” that it will sign a retail food chain to a lease soon. “So— fingers crossed — it’ll be a great thing if they can pull it off,” he said.
Three other businesses have moved to the plaza from the mainland side of the Ocean Avenue Bridge. “It’s an encouraging trend,” Town Clerk Lisa Petersen said.