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City council votes on masks, temporarily closes parking

July 6, 2020
By TIFFANY REPECKI (trepecki@breezenewspapers.com) , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

During a special meeting last week, the Sanibel City Council approved the mandatory wearing of face coverings, along with the temporary closure of city-owned and -operated, paid beach parking lots.

On June 30, the council voted 3-1 to require masks or face coverings effective July 3, with certain exceptions. Exclusions include places of worship, on beaches, on the Shared Use Path and such.

It also voted 3-1 to close its paid beach parking for a few days over the holiday weekend, from July 3-6. An exception was made for holders of A and A/C parking stickers using the Sanibel Boat Ramp.

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Vice Mayor Mick Denham and Councilmembers Richard Johnson and Holly Smith voted in favor of the motions, while Councilmember Jason Maughan cast the sole dissenting vote on each measure.

Mayor Kevin Ruane was excused from the meeting due to a family emergency.

At the start of the meeting, Denham reported that Ruane's mother had been involved in a "very serious accident" the day before. She was "very seriously injured" and was in intensive care in New York.

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City Attorney John Agnew read aloud a correspondence from the mayor in his absence. Ruane stated that he is not in favor of the mandatory mask requirement. He called it an overreach of government, cited "legal concerns" and said he favors encouraging the public to wear masks over mandating them.

During the meeting, nearly 400 pages of written public comments were entered into the record. In addition, a handful of people spoke in person - some wanting mandatory masks and others not.

While the councilmembers discussed the proposed mask proclamation, it was pointed out by several of them that the city has only encouraged the wearing of them so far, relying on personal responsibility.

"While not 100 percent, masks provide some protection and control of spread," Denham said.

"I am very loath to put forward this proclamation. It shouldn't be necessary, but I'm finding it is necessary. Because the self-discipline is just not working," he continued. "Unfortunately, people are not adhering to it. I think it's necessary now to make the wearing of masks a mandatory requirement."

"I am personally very alarmed about the spread of this virus. If one person dies, that is one person too many," Denham added. "We're bringing this about because there is a health emergency."

Smith echoed his sentiment.

"We tried that and it didn't work," she said of the council's attempts to avoid a mandate through encouragement. "It's helped to a degree, but not to a degree that we need on this island."

"When you mandate something, most people are going to comply," Smith continued, explaining that she is viewing the proposed proclamation as the next step in the city's approach to the pandemic.

"I think it's time for that step to be taken," she added. "We're a tourism-based economy (on Sanibel). We've got to protect our citizens, we've got to protect our employees, our families and our guests."

Johnson acknowledged that higher levels of government have not mandated masks.

"This is one of the instances where, possibly, one size does not fit all," he said.

"I am a very strong proponent of personal responsibility. Unfortunately, what we've seen is personal responsibility has not taken care of this - it wasn't enough, we fell short," Johnson continued of the council's prior actions. "Personal right exists up to the point it infringes on another's right to live too."

"The story behind the numbers is that this thing is getting worse. The positively rate (behind the testing) is going up," he added. "I look forward to moving forward with this."

In his comments, Maughan cited several issues with the mandate, some Ruane also shared.

"I believe at this time the ban in unenforceable, frankly, without turning one citizen against another citizen," he said, pointing out that the city does not employ enough code enforcement officers.

"I expect businesses who wish to enforce this kind of rule to do so. I expect citizens to regulate their activities, not other people's (activities) - I do not like the idea of the government providing cover," Maughan continued of a city mandate. "I am opposed to this and I am making it clear from the start."

He added that the city should follow the guidance of the county and state.

On the closure of city parking, it appeared the vote could go either way during discussion, until the council was advised following a short recess that Collier County had voted to close its beaches.

Smith seemed to be one councilmember whose stance shifted after hearing the update.

"This information that we just got, I think, is extremely important," she said. "Collier closing has a real impact to us. The east coast is closing, south of us is closing. The push is going to be to Lee County."

The council approved closing the following beach parking facilities through July 6: Blind Pass lot, Gulfside City Park lot, Lighthouse Beach and Fishing Pier lot, Tarpon Bay Beach lot, and Trost lot. It also voted to close the boat ramp parking lot, except for A and A/C permit holders using the ramp.

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ORIGINAL (June 30, 2020):

During a special meeting today, the Sanibel City Council approved the mandatory wearing of face coverings and the temporary closure of all city-owned and -operated, paid beach parking lots.

The council voted 3-1 to require masks or face coverings effective July 3 at 12:01 a.m., with certain exceptions. Exclusions include places of worship, on beaches, on the Shared Use Path and such.

It also voted 3-1 to close its paid beach parking from July 3 at 12:01 a.m. to July 6 at 11:59 p.m. An exception was made for holders of A and AC parking stickers utilizing the Sanibel Boat Ramp.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham and Councilmembers Richard Johnson and Holly Smith voted in favor of the motions, while Councilmember Jason Maughan cast the sole dissenting vote on each measure.

Mayor Kevin Ruane had an excused absence from the meeting. In a correspondence read aloud, he reported that his mother had been in a serious accident out of state and he was traveling to be with her.

The council also extended the city's state of local emergency through July 7.

After the meeting, the city released the following details:

FACE COVERINGS

For the purposes of the restriction, "face covering" means a breathable material that covers the nose and mouth of an individual, secured with ties or straps or otherwise wrapped around the lower face, whether purchased, homemade or improvised, and "business or other place of public accommodation" means a location with a roof overhead under which any business is conducted, goods are made or stored or processed, or where services are rendered, which includes locations where for-profit, non-profit, and governmental entities facilitate public interactions and conduct business, but it does not include places of religious worship, such as churches and synagogues.

- Every person over 2 years of age who is away from his or her place of residence should carry a face covering capable of immediate use.

- Every person over 2 years of age who is away from his or her residence should wear a face covering when closer than 6 feet to another person with whom he or she does not reside.

- Individuals - whether an owner, worker, patron, or otherwise - of a business or other place of public accommodation are required to wear a face covering while indoors within that business or public accommodation.

- Individuals are not required to wear a face covering while outdoors in public areas anywhere with appropriate social distancing of 6 or more feet between individuals who do not reside together, including but without limitation, at the beach, on the shared use path, or playing golf.

- Violations are subject to fines of $50 per violation. Businesses or other places of public accommodation are encouraged to post signage of the proclamation and adopt a "no mask, no service" policy to facilitate enforcement.

- The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to any of the following individuals (although such individuals are not prohibited by the restriction from wearing face coverings if they so choose):

- Children under 2 years of age.

- Individuals who have one or more medical conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a mask or otherwise would cause impairment due to an existing health condition.

- Individuals obtaining a service from a barbershop, beauty salon, or other type of service involving the head or face, where temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.

- Individuals who are engaged in work where use of a face covering will not be compatible with the duties of the profession.

- Restaurant or bar customers or patrons, only while seated at a table or bar.

- Individuals who are exercising.

- Owners or workers in an area of the business or other place of public accommodation that is not open to customers, patrons, or the public, provided that 6 feet of distance exists between any owners or workers. The exception does not apply to owners or workers in the kitchen or other food and beverage preparation area of a restaurant or food establishment.

- Guests when inside of a hotel room, motel room, vacation rental unit, timeshare unit, or similar unit.

- Individuals worshiping in a church, synagogue or other place of religious worship.

CLOSURE OF PAID BEACH PARKING LOTS

Effective from 12:01 a.m. July 3 through 11:59 p.m. July 6, the following city-owned paid beach parking facilities will be closed:

- Blind Pass parking lot

- Gulfside City Park (Algiers) parking lot

- Lighthouse Beach and Fishing Pier parking lot

- Tarpon Bay Beach parking lot

- Trost parking lot

- City boat ramp parking lot, except the closure shall not prohibit "A" and "AC" parking permit holders to utilize the facilities or park at the city boat ramp

A full story on the meeting is forthcoming.

 
 

 

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