No one-size-fits all fertilizer ordinance for Collier County, Marco Island

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
The city of Marco Island,  the city of Naples and Collier County will go their separate ways for developing fertilizer ordinances after determining that a one-size-fits-all approach would not satisfy the needs of each community.

After nearly three hours of discussion and a countless number of public speakers, it appears Collier County, the city of Naples and the City of Marco Island will go their separate ways on developing a fertilizer ordinance.

Representatives from all three government entities met two weeks ago to workshop a countywide ordinance but from the outset, it was clear that there were conflicting views on the science of fertilizing and the needs of each community were different.

“What I’m hearing is that there doesn’t seem to be consensus among the policymakers at the table that a single ordinance is going to work for each municipality with an exact identical regulation,” County Manager Leo Ochs said.

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The fertilizer workshop had been in the works since September when the County Board of Commissioners asked that it put together to better develop an ordinance.

Collier County Pollution Control Manager Danette Kinaszczuk, who spoke on behalf of all the environmental staffs, said that countywide ordinance would result in less confusion for landscapers and likely increase compliance.

While there was no consensus on the language of an ordinance, environmental staffs from all three municipalities were in agreement that ordinances should all contain 12 key points moving forward, including but not limited to:

  • No phosphorus without a soil test since there is already a lot of phosphorus naturally in soil
  • Must contain 50 percent slow release nitrogen
  • Fertilizer applicators must carry a certificate
  • A 10-foot buffer between application and water bodies
  • No fertilizer or grass clippings on hard surfaces
  • No mow zone maintenance zone

If all municipalities were in agreement with staff recommendations, the end product would have looked similar to an ordinance the city of Naples passed in 2017, she said.

Kinaszczuk also pointed out that the waterways were more impaired after hurricanes and that the fertilizer ordinance was not the only source of concern that needed to be addressed.

“I’m not saying the fertilizer ordinance isn’t important but it’s not the only thing we need to work on,” she said.

One of the biggest points of contention among scientists and representatives was on the efficiency of a wet season ban.

The current Florida Department of Environmental Protect model ordinance does not include a wet season ban, but a House Bill 157 calls for one as well as the removal of local control.

Lori Trenholm, a professor at the University of Florida, said that there was no evidence to support that fertilizer bans reduced nitrate loading and added that a summertime ban could make it more difficult for grass to filter out nitrogen.

On the flip side, Mac Carraway, who represented the Environmental Research and Education Foundation, said there wasn’t evidence to show that runoff from fertilizer applications worsened red tide or was the root cause of the impaired waterways.

Marco Island’s water quality issues, however, are separate from the other municipalities, Councilor Sam Young said.

“I don’t want anyone to try and link the issues we have in Marco with what’s going on in the gulf with what relates to red tide,” he said.

Marco Island’s waterways have been impaired for the past few years, not just after the hurricane.

In addition to looking at how it treats fertilizer, Young said that the city also needs to review reclaimed water due to the high level of nutrients that were found in it.

“You should never have to fertilize in Marco with those levels,” he said.

Young said one of the issues the city faced was enforcing its own fertilizer ordinance, pointing to comments made by Police Chief Al Schettino during a recent City Council meeting.

Although Marco Island does have a summertime ban, it has no effect because it is not enforced.

“We don’t have a blackout period,” Young said. “We’ve been fertilizing 24-7-365.”

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