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Condo Associations Fined for Sea Turtle Lighting Violations Illuminate Need for Awareness, Compliance at Florida Beachfront Communities

A recent article by the Marco Eagle newspaper reported that the Marco Island Code Enforcement Magistrate recently issued $1,000 fines to three condominium associations for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions.  For one of the properties, it was the second such violation in consecutive months.

The violations involved lighting in the pool areas that reflect on the oceanfront buildings.  These lights could potentially disorient turtle hatchlings, causing them to move away from the shore.

sturtle-300x200The newspaper report also noted that the city’s code enforcement office had recently issued $1,300 in fines against six condominium associations for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions.  To date, the municipality has issued 45 notices of violation during the 2019 sea turtle season, 25 more than in 2018.

The article also states that a local condominium resident recently posted in a Facebook group that she found a dead sea turtle hatchling inside of a Ziploc-type plastic bag in her building’s lobby accompanied by a note reading:  “This is what you get when you don’t close the blinds.  They crawl towards the light.”

Marco Island is not the only Florida beachfront municipality that maintains and enforces lighting mitigation restrictions during the sea turtle nesting season, which runs from March – October.  In fact, many Florida counties and municipalities have similar ordinances, and representatives of oceanfront community associations in Florida should consult with their legal counsel to determine the applicability of such laws to their community as well as the best manner by which they may comply.

Some of the steps suggested by experts to safeguard against violations of applicable restrictions include turning off any unnecessary lighting, closing the blinds/curtains, shielding lights away from the beach, avoiding decorative landscape lighting on the beach side, planting vegetation buffers between light sources and the beach, and avoiding flashlights and flash photography on the beach at night.  These and other measures, some of which require owner communications and cooperation, can enable associations to avoid violations that could lead to costly fines and negative publicity.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write regularly about important issues for Florida associations in this blog, and we encourage association members, directors and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box on the right in order to automatically receive all of our future articles.

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