Key West Commissioners Revisit Cruise Ship Coronavirus Restrictions

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Key West commissioners connected Monday directed their lawyer to draught ordinances limiting section cruise vessel operations, mirroring metropolis voter-approved measures precocious overturned by authorities lawmakers.

During a peculiar gathering Monday evening, commissioners said that, contempt the menace of lawsuits and further preemptive legislation, they had to enactment the 2020 referendums. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, backers pushed the measures arsenic a mode to support country waters and coral reefs surrounding the tourism-dependent community.

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“We’ve got 63 percent of our voting colonisation that said capable is enough. We person to person their backs,” Commissioner Jimmy Weekley said. “We person to basal present and find a mode successful which we tin support that referendum question that was passed. And we’ve got to archer the authorities of Florida, you tin preempt this each you want, we’re going to support coming backmost with ordinances oregon resolutions successful a mode that we tin get what our constituents want.”

With cruise ships acceptable to instrumentality to the state’s southern-most larboard successful September pursuing much than a year-long unopen down owed to the pandemic, Key West City Attorney Shawn Smith said the caller authorities instrumentality would let the committee to instrumentality the volition of voters done ordinances.

Smith said his mentation of the instrumentality is based upon a measure signed into instrumentality by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which tossed retired the results of 3 November 2020 Key West referendums. The measures constricted the size of ships utilizing the Port of Key West and the fig of passengers allowed to disembark daily.

But Smith besides advised commissioners that ordinances restricting cruise vessel activity, which the committee is expected to see successful August, could effect successful lawsuits from negatively impacted businesses — which the metropolis apt would person faced without the caller authorities instrumentality — and spark much authorities authorities adjacent year.

“What was passed by the voters is 1 thing. What is capable for you to walk an ordinance is thing different,” Smith said.

The caller law, passed by authorities legislators this spring, prohibits section ballot initiatives that restrict maritime commerce involving specified things arsenic vas sizes and points of origin.

Those supporting the Florida instrumentality argued the authorities has a national work to support ports unfastened for concern and that the citizens of Key West are trying to marque the assemblage much exclusive, alternatively than being acrophobic astir the biology issues promoted by the advocates of the 2020 referendums.

But the Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships, which sponsored the 2020 measures, garnered the enactment of metropolis commissioners earlier a assemblage that overwhelmingly supported the cruise vessel restrictions during Monday’s meeting.

The committee’s backers argued that the caller instrumentality — tucked into a contentious proscription measure arsenic the legislative league drew to a adjacent successful precocious April — lone applies to ballot measures and doesn’t forestall larboard authorities from regulating their facilities.

One contented the metropolis volition person to woody with is Pier B, a backstage cruise larboard which has operated for the past 3 decades nether a declaration that annually provides 25 percent of its nett gross to Key West. The metropolis estimates that it receives astir $1.5 cardinal a twelvemonth from Pier B, which would enactment the company’s yearly gross proceeds astir $6 cardinal a year.

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DeSantis’ governmental committee received astir $1 cardinal successful donations from companies owned by Mark Walsh, the proprietor of Pier B Development, earlier the 2021 legislative session.

Commissioner Samuel Kaufman said helium wants to scrutinize a draught ordinance to find its imaginable impacts.

“I deliberation each the commissioners would similar to spot an ordinance successful spot if it’s enacted wrong and permissible by law, and if it volition clasp up to tribunal scrutiny,” Kaufman said, adding that the committee was incapable Monday evening to marque a determination astir however to determination forward. “All of this is hypothetical until we spot a drafted ordinance. So, I’m each for it. I’m each for review. I’m each for analysis.”

Asked what it would instrumentality to extremity the city’s declaration with Pier B Development, which runs into 2025, Smith replied, “We pay.”

“I deliberation Pier B sues us. I don’t deliberation it’s a threat. I deliberation it’s legitimate,” Smith said. “I deliberation it’s a breach of declaration assertion and an interstate commerce claim.”

Bart Smith, representing Pier B Development, told the committee that the institution invested millions of dollars into gathering and strengthening its facilities.

“We anticipation and expect the metropolis to proceed to grant the agreement,” helium said.

Several residents called the 2020 referendum a compromise, noting they would person favored much terrible restrictions.

Arlo Haskell, treasurer of the committee that backed the 2020 measures, called connected commissioners to o.k. ordinances that prohibit cruise ships carrying much than 1,300 people, bounds disembarkations to 1,500 a day, and springiness precedence to cruise ships based upon biology and nationalist wellness records.

“There should beryllium nary peculiar carve outs and nary exemptions,” Haskell said. “Allowing a azygous pier to proceed to run without limits would let for 365 ample cruise ships a year, 1 each and each day. This would hardly beryllium an betterment from the presumption quo, and is surely not the alteration that the radical of Key West person asked for.”

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(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten, oregon redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.)

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