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Marijuana, dangerous dogs, massage parlors, vacation rentals, swales, bicycles and many more subjects were discussed at the latest Wilton Manors code workshop.

For more than three hours on a Thursday evening, commissioners and officials discussed rewording the city code. As it stands currently, the code is more than 450 pages and has yet to pass the first reading at a commission meeting.

There are 21 chapters to the city code. Those chapters are general provisions, administration, alcoholic beverages, animals, buildings and building regulations, emergency management, fire alarm systems, fire prevention and protection, impact fees, licenses-permits and business regulations, miscellaneous offenses, nuisances, personnel, planning and development, police, solid waste, streets, sidewalks and other public places, taxation, traffic and vehicles, utilities and noise control.

Some of the highlights of the workshop included Commissioner Chris Caputo questioning distance requirements between churches and bars. 

“We have to be careful flipping these around,” said Commissioner Gary Resnick. “Our local authority is preempted by state statutes.”  

Roberta Moore, Community Development Services director, said any business selling alcoholic beverages must be located 1,000 feet away from a church or school. 

Caputo also floated decriminalizing marijuana. Assistant Police Chief Gary Blocker pushed back on that suggestion, stating marijuana is illegal on the state and federal level. Currently, people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana are issued a civil citation. 

“I do believe it is still beneficial to keep this on the books,” Blocker said. 

Commissioner Mike Bracchi asked to see data from the city’s civil citation program. Blocker said residents with medical marijuana prescriptions can have citations voided.

Elsewhere, commissioners recommended scrapping the city’s $2 bicycle registration fee, removing a two-gender bathroom requirement for massage parlors and getting rid of a sworn affidavit requirement for noise complaints. 

Ducks, coyotes and foxes were added to the list of wild animals that are prohibited to feed. City Attorney Kerry Ezrol noted dogs are all equal under the law. 

“You can’t regulate dogs based on breed,” Ezrol said. “One bite and the dog is declared a dangerous dog.”

Mayor Scott Newton expressed a desire to shorten the length of time the city allows for water accounts to be disconnected. Presently, the city allows a three-month period before shutting off delinquent accounts. Newton also pushed for charges on those who steal water from the city. 

City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson said Wilton Manors is in the process of identifying vacation rentals that advertise regularly and have those come in for compliance. Caputo admitted he operates an Airbnb and questioned the length of time an owner had to reside on property to be considered homesteaded. 

Vice Mayor Paul Rolli noted snowbirds like to migrate every six months from their homes up north. Rolli also proposed not allowing concrete or asphalt swales in the future for environmental reasons. 

“Permeable surfaces return water to the ground,” Rolli said. “Many older homes have paved or asphalt swales and they add to flooding of the streets.”

Much of the code discussion is likely to continue at Tuesday evening’s regularly scheduled commission meeting.

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