Palmetto Bay to discuss lights on sports fields

06/20/2014 5:16 PM

06/20/2014 8:14 PM

The Palmetto Bay Village council will hold a special meeting on Monday, June 23, to vote on items deferred from the last two council meetings, including a controversial lighting ordinance and charter amendment.

The lighting ordinance change and the charter amendment are essentially mutually exclusive. The ordinance change would reverse the village’s ban on lighting private recreational fields in residential areas, while the charter amendment item is one step in elevating that ban to a charter guarantee. The charter is the village’s constitution and needs approval from voters to be amended. If the charter item gets a majority three votes on the council, it will be put on the ballot in November’s election.

“Quality of life is what I was elected to protect, and quality of life issues have been under attack and this is the way to preserve and protect them,” said Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, who sponsored the charter amendment. “Let the residents decide what’s important to them.”

Council member Tim Schaffer proposed reversing the lighting ban in May. It was deferred for staff analysis at that time and again at the June council meeting because of council member Patrick Fiore’s absence. Schaffer said at the time that he was proposing the change because it represented “government over the people” by applying only to private and not public athletic fields.

But many residents rallied against it, saying the ordinance change was in fact a bid to placate private school Palmer Trinity, which was at the time looking to get a new site plan approved by the city council with nearly 40 light poles across several athletic fields.

The school has since withdrawn its request for lights, but it’s also implied it would reapply for them if the code were to change.

Schaffer’s ordinance change will now almost certainly fail – Stanczyk as well as council members Joan Lindsay and Patrick Fiore say they won’t vote for the item. But Stanczyk and Lindsay say they want to make sure that it isn’t easy as three votes to change this part of the village code.

Vice mayor John DuBois has said he won’t vote for the charter amendment because zoning doesn’t belong in the charter – precisely because it’s inflexible – and Schaffer is highly unlikely to vote for an item presented explicitly to challenge what he tried to do with his own ordinance change.

Fiore will be the swing vote, and as of Thursday, he confirmed he didn’t know which he’d be voting.

If the charter item fails, residents can petition themselves to get the item onto the November ballot. They’ll need signatures supporting the item totaling 10 percent of the electorate from the last general election – a little more than 1,600 signatures.

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