Fertilizer Ban Passed on First Reading

The fertilizer ban ordinance passed on first reading unanimously, however several commissioners expressed that without more scientific data and other municipality experience on enforcement they may not vote for it on second reading.

Vice Mayor Vince Lago who has been a champion for smart sustainability had serious concerns over the proposed ordinance. Lago questioned why the ordinance carved out the largest users of fertilizer, golf courses and athletic facilities.

Longtime resident and activist Maria Cruz sarcastically asked if the city was going to have to implement drones to fly over and catch violators in the act. Cruz added that the recent cardboard box ban from the swale was unenforcable and she’s seen more cardboard then ever before.

The city will begin to enforce the cardboard box ban beginning in January. Lago has said that if the city is unable to effectively enforce the cardboard ordinance than he would be in favor or repealing it.

Coral Gables has four golf courses, Biltmore, Riviera Country Club, Granada and Deering Bay.

The ordinance sponsored by Commissioner Pat Keon, seeks to ban the use of fertilizer from June 1 to September 30 each year as well as tropical storm and hurricane watches.

In a brief of the ordinance provided by the city:

“Excessive and improper use of fertilizers contributes to adverse effects on surface and ground water, and excessive nutrients from fertilizer run off can lead to algae blooms and cause harm to aquatic vegetation and wildlife. Recognizing that it is in the best interest of the public health, safety, and welfare of the City’s residents and visitors to reduce runoff from improperly applied fertilizers in the waters of the City, the City Commission is considering an ordinance to prohibit the application of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous during a certain time period each year. The prohibited application period would run from June 1 to September 30 each year, and whenever the City is under a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning. Various facilities, including golf courses and athletic fields, as well as lands used for bona fide scientific research or farm operations will be exempt from the ordinance, provided that the fertilizers are applied following Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services best management practices.”  

The ordinance is expected to come back at the January 14th, 2020 regular city commission meeting.

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3 thoughts on “Fertilizer Ban Passed on First Reading

  1. How naive of a previous commenter to think that only properties “entwined” with the waterways can contribute to fertilizer runoff. Fertilizers and everything else absorbed by the soil or going down storm drains not only end up in the waterways but in the aquifer as well.
    As for “biodegradable” cardboard, if shredded (as for recycling), it can biodegrade in moths. But an entire intact box can take years, only adding to the mass in our landfills. They are also unsightly in the swale. Let’s not be so lazy. It takes less than a minute to flatten a box and place it with the rest of the recyclables.
    What should be tackled next is the greatest contributor to water pollution in our city: aging septic tanks.

  2. Fertilizer in a moment. But first, the cardboard box ban is ridiculous and does not take into account the enormously increased on-line shopping component of our society. Everything from food to shoes to lamps and golf bags comes in large cardboard boxes delivered to residents’ doors. Given the fact that 99% of the cardboard material comes from already recycled or organic based substances, it makes no sense to force residents to crush the boxes and stick them out with the recycling which only increases the amount of work and time for the recycling crews. Paper, cans, glass – yes. Cardboard boxes – absurd. We should be able to put those in the swale/trash piles the night before as in the past. It never slowed down the process before and the material is biodegradable. Fertilizer is another fallacy. If the entire City had the luxury of being entwined within the Gables Waterway, then the expressed concern would perhaps have validity. The fact is that only certain areas realistically contribute to the leaching into our ground water table that would lead to algae blooms during the summer months. Yet the vast majority of the City is not even near those areas that would be affected by the leaching into the waterways. Moreover, the areas chosen for “exception” are more likely to contribute to leaching given their proximity to waterways (Biltmore, Riviera, Deering Bay, Granada Golf Courses, University of Miami?). Also, how many algae blooms have we experienced in Coral Gables? Have the studies and evidence being relied upon indicated a valid and viable relationship between the cessation of fertilizing residential areas in Coral Gables and the potential for algae blooms? How far away from the water does a resident have to be to apply the fertilizer ban. Within a certain distance from the water? Or is this a Citywide ordinance? Since the chemicals are of concern, should we also consider whether any chemicals are used to clean buildings (with runoff into the storm drains) or to clean the Venetian Pool? If it is the “propriety of the application which is really at the heart of this ordinance,” then have the applicators apply for and be certified by the City before they can be allowed to put fertilizer in any residential area. I’ll bet dollars to donuts the places who have been designated for exception to this rule, have qualified fertilizer applicators. This would likely cut down on the number of work trucks clogging the residential streets during the daytime. I believe more thought is in order for this issue given the history of thoughtfulness applied in past ordinances (e.g. – boxes). “Less” thought on the fertilizer issue will not necessarily lead to a “more” thoughtful, satisfactory and sustainable result. Governance requires thoughtfulness and not a knee jerk reaction. Of the two ordinances discussed herein, although I’ve been reluctantly complying with the cardboard box one for a few months now (and I didn’t bother to speak up although I wish I had now that I have seen it in action and watched the recycle crew deal with piles of cardboard as large or larger [especially this time of year] than what is contained in the recycle bins), I wish the City good luck in enforcing that one. Many of our residents are simply going to be physically unable to comply given the size and composition of the boxes (maybe the City should issue boxcutters to assist in the disassembly of the boxes for flattening). As for the fertilizer ordinance, you may want to put some more thought into that one. Jusy saying.

  3. In theory, a very good idea. this ban is currently in effect in other parts of Florida, for the same very good reasons mentioned. I would also like to see limited usage for what is described as “various facilities” as well.
    Enforcement?? That is the real issue since the Gables a small municipality sandwiched between other cities that have no such ban. When I buy fertilizer, I can go to the Home Depot in Miami (8th Street) or Coconut Grove. A Gables ban would not prevent them from selling it.
    A County wide ban would be a much more effective way. Hopefully, if the Gables does something, the rest of the County will follow.

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