Marco committee wants city to reimplement licensed fertilizer decal system

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle

Tinkering with Marco Island’s fertilizer ordinance may be just one part of addressing nutrients seeping into the city’s canals and waterways, but one of the city’s committees has taken a step toward making sure best practices are implemented.

The Beautification Advisory Committee held a workshop Wednesday afternoon, prior to its regular meeting, to listen to best practices for landscaping and information about its fertilizer ordinance from Donald Rainey, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program’s best practices coordinator.

With increasing concerns about water quality, the Beautification Advisory Committee is looking for the city to reimplement a decal system that would identify businesses licensed to apply fertilizer.

While Rainey’s presentation touched on a number of items the city could keep an eye on, the committee immediately took one of his suggestions that would help with better regulation of fertilizer application and identifying violators of the city’s ordinance.

The committee unanimously recommended for the city to reimplement a decal system, in which businesses licensed to spread fertilizer would be required to have an identifying sticker on their vehicles.

More:Water quality issues prompt discussion on Marco Island fertilizer ordinance

And:Monday's Marco Island City Council meeting could set the tone for big changes in 2019

The application of fertilizer has become a hot topic with water quality issues hampering Marco Island’s canals and waterways.

While it’s not the single reason for impaired waterways, it may have contributed to the increased nitrogen levels over the past years.

At the suggestion of Councilor Victor Rios, the City Council has already committed itself to holding a workshop on water quality issues that may include changes or greater enforcement of its fertilizer ordinance.

Yvette and Al Benarroch, owners of Affordable Landscaping Service and Design, expressed support for the decal system to ensure that businesses spreading fertilizer had the proper education and licensing from the state.

Public Works Director Tim Pinter said that city previously had a similar system in place, but it was no longer enforced.

Yvette Benarroch said part of the problem with enforcement of the city’s fertilizer ordinance was educating officers on what to look for so that it would be easier for them to do their jobs.

In his presentation to the committee, Rainey said that a comprehensive approach was needed to help curtail storm water and nutrient runoff from impacting the city’s waterways.

In addition to looking at stricter landscape management provisions, Rainey said best practices also take into account things like land planning, low-impact development, integrated pest management and site plan and landscape design.

Some of these practices are already being implemented in the city.

The concept of a fertilizer-free zone, such as a buffer from a seawall, is present in different areas. For example, Pinter said that Mackle Park has a fertilizer buffer in place to prevent runoff into the lake.

With respect to grass clippings, Rainey said that a common mistake was bagging them, which had led to clippings in drains and waterways. Instead, it’s best practice to put the clippings back on the lawn because they get recycled, Rainey said.

When asked specifically about Marco Island's ordinance, Rainey said that one part he did not agree with was having a summer ban due to grass needing the nutrients. 

Rainey added that it was best practice to increase monitoring because it would determine baselines and help identify the extent of how different elements are impacting water quality.

One theme throughout Rainey’s presentation was the need for homeowners and landscapers to continue to educate themselves about best practices because they both play a part in helping to control nutrient runoff.