In light of the Broward State Attorney’s decision to stop prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases, Wilton Manors commissioners are revisiting the city’s cannabis regulations.
In a memo dated Feb. 2, State Attorney Harold Pryor informed law enforcement agencies his office would be handling misdemeanor marijuana cases in a “non-criminal” manner.
“Prosecuting these cases has no public safety value and is a costly and counterproductive use of limited resources,” the memo reads.
Wilton Manors Police Chief Gary Blocker said the department’s civil citation program is in alignment with Pryor’s mission of alternatives to physical arrests. Blocker said officers have a duty to seize marijuana as contraband, enter it into evidence and generate police reports. The work takes approximately 90 minutes, Blocker said.
Fines from the civil citation program go into the general fund. Commissioner Mike Bracchi asked for data from the program prior to the second reading of chapter 12 “miscellaneous offenses” in the city code of ordinances. Bracchi and Commissioner Chris Caputo expressed support for removing violations for small amounts of cannabis.
The state attorney's office’s threshold for a felony charge is 24 grams. Wilton Manors is considering 20 grams or less as the threshold for its civil citation program and Mayor Scott Newton said the program is needed.
“If you don’t, you’re gonna have 500 people smoking pot down the street because Wilton Manors is not going to do anything and do you want that?” Newton asked. “So, you have to at least have the citation.”
Caputo disagreed with the notion crowds would be specifically drawn to Wilton Manors to smoke pot and raised concerns people with diagnosed medical conditions that require prescription cannabis could be penalized.
City attorney Kerry Ezrol said there are exemptions for medical marijuana, hemp and industrial hemp.
Other notes from the Feb. 22 meeting:
Bracchi questioned the city’s lease agreement with Echo Air Conditioning for 1,200 square feet of floor space at 2200 NE 12th Avenue. The company is moving from Oakland Park, said City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson, and has tentatively agreed to share expenses with Horton/Jones Electrical Contractors. The three-year lease agreement comes down to $11.40 per square foot. Bracchi noted the numbers quoted were for retail space and rent was half of the current going rate per square foot.
“I don’t think we are negotiating these leases appropriately so I’m not going to support this,” Bracchi said. Commissioner Gary Resnick sided with Bracchi, pointing out the new tenant is not obligated to make any upgrades to the space.
“I have a tough time with this amount also, it seems to me like it’s a favorite son kind of deal,” Resnick said.
Vice Mayor Paul Rolli said he toured the property and witnessed a different story than basic numbers would indicate.
“Frankly, the space is pretty bad,” Rolli said. “Before we talk about rental and compare statistics you have to look at the space as well and, honestly, the space is quite dingy.”
The ordinance passed on first reading on a 3 to 2 vote with support from Rolli, Newton and Caputo.
Carl Shearer presented the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board’s goals and accomplishments report.
“Our board is the most diverse and one of the youngest in tenure among all city boards and we are proud of it,” Shearer said.
On his list of accomplishments, Shearer touted efforts to secure public approval for the use of Community Development Block Grant funds to repair the closed playground at Hagen Park.
“We secured 75 signatures of parents at Wilton Manors Elementary School that represented 120 children that were very interested in supporting that,” Shearer said.
Some of the board’s goals for 2022 include seeking renewal of the park system master plan and pursuing renaming opportunities for Site 92 and the Kiwanis Club after the city takes ownership.
Resident Harry Redlich said he has complained to no avail to code compliance about a neighbor feeding ducks.
“I want to know if it’s legal to create a duck preserve on a residential property,” Redlich said.
Redlich said Muscovy ducks are a menace and causing problems around Island City Park Preserve.
“They’re an introduced species, they don’t belong here,” he said.
Redlich said the ducks are eating up grass in yards and pooping on the street. Vehicles, he said, are running over the waterfowl and leaving carcasses behind in his neighbor’s driveway. “It’s really upsetting, it’s bringing down property values and it’s just a big bummer,” he said.
Meanwhile, a total of 27 new cases were scheduled for a Special Magistrate Hearing on March 2.
Devon Walsh, the Administrative Program coordinator for the Leisure Services Department, was presented with the Employee of the Quarter award.
Chandi Lawrence accepted the city’s Black History Month proclamation in honor of her mother Lynn Lawrence, owner of the Wilton Drive Dairy Queen.
The next regular commission meeting is March 8.
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Wilton Manors Code Rewrite Workshop Covers Pot, Dog Bites, Distance, and More