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Focused on Referendum, Flagler Beach Mayor Provencher Drops Veto Threat Over Bonfires

| May 13, 2012

Rather than veto the bonfire ban three of her colleagues approved last week, Mayor Linda Linda Provencher, foreground, is encouraging residents to appear before the commission, speak their mind and press for a referendum. From left, Marshall Shupe and Steve Settle, who are for the ban, Commission Chairman Jane Mealy and Joy McGrew, who are against it, and Kim Carney, who is for it. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach Mayor Linda Provencher will not veto the bonfire ban in her city after all, should that ban survive a second reading of the proposed ordinance come May 24.

The Flagler Beach City Commission on Thursday voted 3-2 to ban nighttime bonfires on the beach during turtle nesting season, between May and October, ending, at least for those months, what many beach-goers consider a “right” or a “tradition.” Proponents of the ban cite the federal Endangered Species Act and the threat of potentially costly lawsuits should a connection be established between bonfires and damage to turtle nests or to hatchlings.

After receiving numerous calls and emails opposing the ban, Provencher said on Friday that she was weighing the possibility of a veto, should the ban survive the ordinance’s second reading. A day later, she had changed her mind. “For the record,” she wrote in a comment on FlaglerLive, “I will not veto this issue no matter which way it goes. I do however encourage people to come to the meeting to voice your opinion and let your elected officials know how you feel.”

In an interview later, Provencher explained. “I personally believe it should go for a referendum and let the voters decide, but having said that, I feel like if I say I’ll veto it, then the people on either side are going to be more complacent.” Staying away from a veto–or a veto threat– encourages the debate to carry on, Provencher believes. Still, the calls she’s received suggests the majority of people are opposed to a ban.

Some criticism was leveled directly at Provencher for taking sides on the matter because the Golden Lion restaurant, where she works, had held a bonfire before, and Provencher’s involvement could have been perceived as a conflict of interest. Provencher said she’d received at least one communication raising that issue, which she disputes categorically. The restaurant’s bonfire was a one-time event in conjunction with a local radio station, not a recurring thing. “It’s not like the Golden Lion has a bonfire every week and I’m fighting for the Golden Lion,” the mayor said. “I don’t think the Golden Lion cares either way.” She stressed that she was not speaking for the restaurant, but that her employment there led one person to object to her speaking on a previous matter–mobile vendors around the city–simply because it involved food.

The more pressing issue for Provencher is the referendum on bonfires. The city commission voted 4-1 in late April to send the matter to referendum. The referendum would not be binding: the commission would still have to ratify it by way of an ordinance. But it would, depending on the turnout, give residents a clearer voice on the issue. That’s what the mayor wants to see, if the commission doesn’t somehow retreat from that vote. She intends to ensure that it’s on the agenda. “I probably will, if no one else does,” Provencher said.

When Jane Mealy, the commission chairman (who is opposed to a ban) started speaking about the referendum last Thursday, Commissioner Steve Settle (a proponent of the ban) raised a point of order, saying the matter was not under discussion just then. The mere issue of when to schedule a referendum will itself likely provoke its own debate. The city is not likely to schedule a special election because that’s costly, especially in a year with two elections coming up–the Aug. 14 primary and the Nov. 6 general election.

Meanwhile, ban or not, bonfires are not legal on the beach because a county-wide burn ban is in effect, due to the heightened fire danger. Absent serious rain, the ban could last until July, as it did last year, when rains returned.

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7 Responses for “Focused on Referendum, Flagler Beach Mayor Provencher Drops Veto Threat Over Bonfires”

  1. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    Of course, she could be WRONG!

  2. B. Claire says:

    “For the record I will not veto this issue no matter which way it goes. I do however encourage people to come to the meeting to voice your opinion and let your elected officials no how you feel. ”

    It’s the 21st Century…create a way to ‘voice opinion’ electronically! Maybe the Internet Machine? If ok by the IRS…maybe will work for Flagler Beach?

  3. ART WOOSLEY says:

    Even though the previous and often harmful “block” votes put forth by the triplets, Commissioners Mealy, McGrew, and Provencher are no longer possible, now that Commissioner Provencher has obtained the position of mayor.

    It is still very obvious that the triplets are still closely aligned, joined at the hip let’s say. This was clearly demonstrated, when our new mayor threatened a VETO should Commissioners Carney, Settle and Shupe, who are on the correct side of the of the beach bonfire issue prevail.

    Even though it now appears our mayor has backed away from that threat, she still continues requesting that people to show up and “voice their opinion”, I guess they want yet another head count ?

    Over the past months these same officials have been given an abundance of information and input regarding this important matter, the time has now come to VOTE.

    No need for more talk, or workshops, NO referendum to spend more tax payer money. PLEASE, JUST MAKE A DECISION THAT’S YOUR JOB !

  4. MSFB says:

    And, Carney, Shupe and Settle Aren’t… FB used to be a great place to live but now people like Art Woosley make it a royal PITA with more and more rules.

  5. John Liccardo says:

    Is the Flagler Beach Commission that far removed from reality that they cannot make a responsible decision about bonfires on our beach, as well as other important issues?

    Just look around and ask how Volusia gets by without bonfires on the beach, dogs on the beach etc., etc.,etc. We seem to have a knack in Flagler Beach to stimulate controversy over many less important, less trivial issues that should be resolved when first raised. As the world desperately churns to resolve critical issues that will affect each of us, Flagler Beach appears to be oblivious to any of it.

    This matter of bonfires would be laughable if it was not so ludicrous and pathetic. Pathetic because of the cost to taxpayers, in time, on the part of the Commission to anguish over making the correct decision. Ludicous because those in favor of bonfires are acting like spoiled children who seem to think or believe they are girl scouts or boy scouts reliving their youth.

    There should be no bonfires whatsoever on our beaches. We are not on a deserted island where it would be of no consequence one way or the other but in a location on the perifery of residential properties where smoke and sparks could present unfavorable consequences.

    If this issue is approved, it will get out of hand in short order and be uncontrollable, and definitely be regretted as time goes on.

    As a futher point, it has been voiced by a number of interested and responsible residents that a public official having a business interest in the City should not be permitted to be a legislator in a position to decide city policy. In any event the Mayor should recuse herself from deciding this critical issue.

    It is doubtful that her action would stand in a court of law, anyway. The City Attorney should be asked to offer a legal opinion.

  6. thinkforyourself says:

    Once again, these are simply “guidelines” from the federal government. They are not LAWS, no one is talking about breaking the law. The city has a fairly comprehensive permitting process in place as it is. If you get a permit they know who you are. Permanent lighting along AIA has been required to hold an amber glow, the same as a very “temporary” bonfire. This isn’t just about tradition. Both of these groups could live together peacefully – no bonfires during turtle season from 10pm till sunrise. For those complaining about a mess left behind from passed fires we need a reporting system in place and those folks should get a fine. It’s not like we live in the Hammock and you can’t see a fire happening from AIA. Our stretch of beach is visible from the roadway. It would be difficult to have a bonfire without someone knowing it. We don’t have an issue in Flagler County, we’ve never had an issue. This is once again Volusia county folks coming up here and getting into our business and rilling up everyone with threats of a lawsuit. Stop using fear of a lawsuit as an excuse. There is no reason to be fearful that is complete and total over kill in the interpretation of the “guidelines”.

  7. Flagler Resident says:

    I live at the beach. I love Sea Turtles. I love bon fires. Stop over-regulation. We need to have more freedom and education. Require a permit. Why not just educate people on where and how to build and maintain their beach fire? In my opinion this is too much government interference. Let people enjoy the beach. It is, after all, the ONLY reason people still have to come to Flagler “Beach”.

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