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In a Brazen Reversal, Flagler Beach Commission Kills Beach-Bonfire Referendum

| June 18, 2012

Not until fall. (Peter Daems)

Just six weeks ago the Flagler Beach City Commission, fractured and indecisive on the matter, voted 4-1 to place a referendum question on a coming ballot regarding bonfires on the beach. After many meetings, the commission couldn’t decide whether to allow the bonfires or ban them in the name of turtle protection. In late April, members of the public suggested placing the question in the form of a referendum question. A 4-1 majority of commissioners agreed.

Last Thursday, the commission reversed itself by an identical vote.

Penny Overstreet, the city clerk, brought the question to a head again when she asked the commission how it wanted to proceed—with what ballot language, and when. But it was clear the commission had no interest in following through on the referendum, because of its 3-2 vote in mid-May banning bonfires during turtle nesting season anyway. That, in most commissioners’ view, trumped the need to hold a referendum.

In Mayor Linda Provencher’s view, it trumped voters’ say. Provencher rebuked the commission for its handling of the matter. She had briefly considered vetoing the commission’s 3-2 decision, then decided against it.

“I would just say at the end of the day, you’ve already voted,” Provencher said. “You’re going to make it a referendum, and then we decide not to. I think that’s what—I’m trying to find a nice word—irks people the most, because all of you sat up here, 4-1, and then you turned around and you didn’t do it. I would not think, even if it did pass, that you would go ahead and change the ordinance anyway because you didn’t listen to the popular vote anyhow. So I think it’s a dead issue. But that’s something that you guys ought to deal with. And it irks me that you go 4-1 and then the next week we just keep shoving it through, shoving it through, shoving it through, whether it’s because of the lawsuits or whatever, until it goes away. I don’t think it was the right way to handle it.”

Commissioners oppose bonfires for different reasons. Commissioners Steve Settle and Kim Carney are  worried about the city being sued under the federal Endangered Species Act, which calls for strict regulations protective of turtle nesting, such as dimmed lighting during nesting season. Commissioner Marshal Shupe doesn’t like the charred remains of bonfires and the litter left in their wake. Commissioners Jane Mealy and Joy McGrew didn’t find an outright ban necessary, nor did Provencher. But Carney forced the issue: she wanted the commission on record, with a vote, on allowing—or banning—bonfires, regardless of a referendum. She got the vote.

Last week, it was Settle who wanted a clear vote on whether or not to hold a referendum.

“If the popular vote came out and said yeah, we want to keep the bonfires, would you really change the ordinance?” Provencher asked. “No, not at this point, because everybody’s scared of the lawsuit. That’s why they did it in the first place. So what are we winning from it?”

“It’s a straw poll,” Settle said.

“But after the fact,” Mealy said.

“If we put this on any referendum or any straw poll, 80 percent of the people of Flagler Beach, 80 to 90 percent,” Settle said, “are going to vote against it, you know? It’s pretty clear. We wouldn’t be putting on a referendum question, ‘Do you like bonfires?’ The referendum would be—do you want your money spent to fight lawsuits to take on the federal government.’”

“Well, isn’t that a little biased,” Mealy said, laughing.

McGrew got exasperated and asked to move to the next issue. Settle wouldn’t, absent a vote. When Mealey had asked if anyone in the public wanted to address the issue, no one did, unlike in previous meetings. But it was nearly 10 p.m. in a nearly empty chamber.

So the commission voted 4-1, with Settle in dissent, against a referendum.

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17 Responses for “In a Brazen Reversal, Flagler Beach Commission Kills Beach-Bonfire Referendum”

  1. question says:

    No Beach Bonfires. Yea!
    Thank you.
    The Turtles

  2. Jim N says:

    You know it is too bad there is no common sense left in this world.
    If Congress actually passed a law saying that having turtles and bonfires is a sad state of affairs and the bonfires must be stopped then why not let them enforce the law they created?

    If the beach belongs to Congress, and they have jurisdiction to pass laws on it, then surely they have the ability and the duty to enforce the laws they create right? The city of Flagler Beach does not have to interject itself at all in. they can simply say to all…….

    We the city of Flagler Beach have no opinion. If the Federal Government wants to come and enforce their own law, that they created, then we will not oppose that. However because “Big Brother” wants a particular thing, does not mean that every single time they can or should pass the buck down to the local government to now spend the money, infringe on the rights of people who actually go and use the beach.

    We should likely have the federal government ban Bonfires in Iowa while we are at it. I mean after all they are polluting by the discharge of deadly toxins into the air, which if the wind blew then affects everyone. After all that same Bonfire spotted by a TURTLE high atop a sand dune in Flagler Beach could be confused and begin it’s trek to Iowa and would surely meet its demise because after all, we citizens all realize there is no ocean in Iowa.

  3. Jim N says:

    I wonder if the turtles or the turtle patrol have any money?
    Maybe we could sue them for violating our pleasures of gathering on the beach in the summer to have a meal?

    And does the new ban mean no fire after dark or anytime?

  4. Magnolia says:

    Once again, the federal government has decided we are not bright enought to handle this issue ourselves. Or it could be that we simply don’t plow enough money into the current administration (or any) to be heard.

    I don’t believe the EPA was included anywhere in my copy of the Constitution. It is time we stood up for ourselves and managed our own affairs.

  5. Yellowstone says:

    Good grief folks . . . . All that is important here is the preservation of wildlife!

    You either care – or don’t give a damn about ‘them stinking turtles’. Which is it?

    The Ferderal Government has provided a sensible guideline. Do you have the intelligence to follow it? (ANS: No, but let’s have another, and another vote on it.) (Reminds me of the Florida voting, and revoting, on the change from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time years ago).

    Well, we could settle this by inviting the NRA in and using the beach critters for legitiment target practice – bet the Bonfire Ban would be lifted then! Or maybe a “Stand Your Ground” referendum.

    Come folks – – let those million year old turtles live why don’t cha?

    Take names and remember who to vote for next time! AND VOTE.

    • Magnolia says:

      I don’t think anyone would disagree, Yellowstone. We all want to preserve our wildlife, but I think we are capable of doing it ourselves, without the force behind the EPA.

      Sensible guidline? If the EPA had their way, we would not be allowed to use the beach at all.

      I remember working on another wildlife issue with the state, who said they were willing to work out a plan, whereas the EPA staff members stated, “we don’t have to work out anything with you.”

      Nuff said.

  6. David says:

    Since our beaches are protected and regulated under the federal government, it should be the federal government that decides how to govern our beaches. Being a avid outdoor person who enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, and going to the beach, I have never had a problem with having a camp fire, as long as I obey the rules set forth by the authorities. I feel that this referendum is way out of proportion and never understood why a local government ever got involved in this matter. This is strictly a federal government matter. I also feel that most of those that are against this bon fire issue probably or hardly ever set foot on our beaches. Just my opinion.

    • Linda H. says:

      I grew up on a beach, David. Campfires were a way of life. And in my state, they complied with state, not federal law since the needs of each state are different. In this case, the issue is harming the turtles.

      Now you cannot even play football on some beaches or you will be arrested, yet here we occasionally drive cars over people.

      Does this make sense to anyone? Whatever happened to common sense?

      • Richard Skirko says:

        Amen Linda, our elected officials can’t even make simple rules. Look at Cocoa Beach, back in the 60’s the beach was as wide as Daytona Beach and we all parked and drove on the beach there. They dug out Port Canaveral so Foreign owned cruise ships could get in, through our shallow shores. The dredging to this day as destroyed the beach all up and down the easy coast of Florida and still now they are going to dredge even deeper for larger cruise ships coming in the future. The cruise ships could operate if they could stay small with 800 pax max, but no, they are going to 6,000 pax with 3500 crew and thousands of tons of sewage dumped in Florida. Jobs? What and where? BS for sure. These are foreign corporations, they paint their ships while in our ports (Bahamas stops them), dripping toxic waste in our local waters and our coast guard won’t touch them because they have politicians in their pockets. Don’t believe me, watch from shore, if you can, and see the 8 to 12 painters (Disney) run out with paint rollers on the ends of long poles, spilling toxic paint into our water, directly onto the backs of turtles as they come up for air! Look at all the spilled paint drops-PROOF OF WHAT I SAY, on the concrete docks. I complained and the captain said to me, “do you know how much money we spend in this area?”. I said back, “how does that give you, one who makes a living from the sea, make it ok to kill it & the sea life in it, with your toxic paint?” He walked away, disgusted with me for speaking up. WTF? Check it out for yourself. Get a visitor pass and look at the docks when the ships are at sea. Examine for yourself, all the paint spill from the rollers I speak off. It is there! What you can not see, is what went between the ship and the dock because the ships will not hang, mandantory canvas, ie too lazy, don’t care about our waters. WTF? Check it out, like I did, see the truth for yourself.

  7. John Smith says:

    You can have a bon Fire by getting a permit at the Fire Station before having it on the beach from SUN UP TO SUNSET then they have to be put out and the area cleaned up or you will be required to pay a fine by the ordinance. So burn away whats the problem.

  8. MSFB says:

    Why have the ban from May 1st till August 31st since it takes 60 days for the nests to hatch. If a turtle laid a nest on May 1st the eggs would not hatch until July 1st. Most of the nests come in late May and early June in which case the eggs wouldn’t hatch until late July and August. So just make the ban for August, after all isn’t it the worry of the turtle people of the hatch-lings crawling into fires at night? Since the earliest hatches won’t happen until after July why ban from May 1st…. why??? because these turtle crazies don’t what you on the beach at all!

  9. exasperated says:

    It’s not just the hatch-lings.

    No beach bonfires during sea turtle nesting season
    Saturday, 26 May 2012 00:23

    CAY HILL–The Fire Department will not accept any requests for beach bonfires until October due to sea turtle nesting season. Residents and businesses are also urged to refrain from any beach fires to ensure sea turtles coming ashore and nests are not disturbed, especially on nesting beaches: Simpson Bay Beach, Guana Bay Beach, Great Bay Beach and Gibbs Bay.

    At least, four bonfires took place recently on Guana Bay Beach. This was discovered during a recent clean-up of the beach, according to the department.

    Further investigation by Nature Foundation St. Maarten revealed that pregnant female turtles aborted their attempts to nest on the beach based on clearly observed nest crawls.

    At nesting beaches, beach bonfires and other sources of light pollution are known to modify sea turtle behaviour and even discourage egg-bearing females from coming ashore to nest, according to the foundation.

    Bonfires and beachfront lighting also strongly affects sea turtle hatchlings, luring them inland and away from the sea where they succumb to predators, dehydration and other hazards, and hatchlings can be attracted to and burned by the flames.

    Sea turtle population numbers have plummeted to dangerously low numbers over the past century due to human impact, bringing the species close to extinction and causing them to be listed as critically endangered.

    In order to reverse this trend all sea turtle species are now protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws.

    Based on Article 16 and 17 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance St. Maarten it is illegal to kill, wound and capture or pick-up sea turtles. It is also illegal to directly or indirectly disturb their environment resulting in a physical threat or damage, or to commit other acts which result in disturbance of the animal.

    It is also forbidden to disturb, damage or destroy sea turtle nests, lairs or breeding places, and it is also forbidden to pick-up or to destroy the eggs of any species of sea turtle, according to the foundation.

    The Caribbean Herald NV D.B.A The Daily Herald

    • MSFB says:

      Sorry Exasperated but that is pure propaganda, go to the national wildlife site who tracks all of these figures and you will see that is pure crap. Even the Florida figures shows well over a million turtles nesting each year on both coasts of Florida. The 387 nests in Flagler County is less than .001% of the total nests in Florida. Brevard County alone had over 22,000 nests last year. Pure propaganda!

  10. exasperated says:

    Maybe the reason Brevard County has so many nests:

    Brevard County Ordinance Sec. 78-114 states:
    No person in any park or recreational area shall ignite, set or maintain any fire for cooking or any other purpose unless such fire is within a designated area for such purpose.

    With two exceptions, beaches in Brevard County are not designated areas and fires are not allowed.

    The exception includes beaches within the city limits of Cocoa Beach or Satellite Beach.

    Contact the applicable municipality for details about requirements they may have, or for any updates that might have been made to the following rules:

    The City of Cocoa Beach will issue a permit for bonfires per City Ordinance 9-10 per the following conditions:

    Permit issued to persons over 18 years of age or older who are Brevard County residents
    Photo ID required
    $25 permit fee
    Permit issued for only for campfires between the north side of Minutemen Cswy and northern boundary of the city
    Permit issued on day of request dependent on wind conditions existing or anticipated (if permit is revoked on site due to wind conditions, permit fee will be refunded by mail)
    No refunds issued due to rain
    Fires can be no less than 100 ft from a stub-end street of dune crossover and at least 30 ft from any dune crossover or vegetation
    Fire cannot exceed 3 ft in diameter or 3 ft in height and must be surrounded by beach sand only
    Fire may not be left unattended and the permit and owner must be present at all times
    Fires must be out by 12 midnight
    All fire debris must be extinguished and removed (not buried) with site restored to natural condition
    No burn permits issued from March 1 and October 31

    City of Cocoa Beach information: 321-868-3330
    City of Cocoa Beach Recreation

    The City of Satellite Beach will issue a permit for bonfires per Recreation Rule conditions. Contact the City of Satellite Beach Fire Department for more information: 321-773-4405


      Yeah, Exasperated, I’m sure the turtles read those Brevard County regulations avidly. I’m sure that’s why they choose Brevard over Flagler by a 57-1 margin. The fact that Cocoa Beach is 101 miles further south than Flagler Beach probably has nothing to do with it.

  11. Richard Skirko says:

    Having designated Bonfire rings on the beaches is a great idea for the public from sunset to say 1200am. No fires during turtle nesting times. No one seems to give a damn about turtles when it comes to leaving bright lights glowing on condos and commercial buildings a long the coast line all night long! Street lights and turn signals are visible from the beach, I’m sure the turtles see those as well. A fire here and there will not affect turtle life, just as they did not back in the 60’s when we lit fires on the beach and watched turtles come crawling up to lay their eggs at Playalinda Beach, Cape Canaveral, not 200 feet away! Yes, been there, done that! It is about people that live along the beaches that feel they own the beach and want to keep the public away at any cost. First remove all parking making it impossible for anyone to com to the beach by automobile, say from Orlando. Post no parking signs and raise the cost of parking meters! Screw everyone who does not live in a condo or stay at a beachside hotel. It’s about making everyone pay to enjoy our beaches and oceans these days. It makes me sick. Stand up and fight for your right to go to the beach for free!

    • SSDD says:

      We can’t post no parking signs everywhere, because then Mr. “I’ve Got Nothing Better To Do Than Run The City Myself” Art Woosley will go around and count them and make the city take them down so we are back to square one…

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