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Palm Bay: Living The Shuttered Life.

With all the problems in the City of Palm Bay now solved, the City is taking on the pressing issue of hurricane shutters being left on homes.

(That’s sarcasm for those who didn’t catch it.)

On the agenda for the January 2, 2020 meeting on pages 78 – 79 there is this little gem to be approved as part of the City Code:

STORM SHUTTERS.
Any material whether solid (metal, wood, plastic, etc.) or flexible (screening, fabric or mesh, etc.) utilized with the express purpose of protecting glass doors and windows from damage from wind and debris during storms or hurricanes. Storm Shutters can either be permanently attached to a structure such as accordion shutters, closeable awnings and flaps, roll-up gates or they can be removable.

[….]

(3) Storm Shutters are not permitted to cover any window or door on any structure for more than seven (7) days prior to or fourteen (14) days after, the National Hurricane Center declares a storm watch or warning for a named storm to potentially occur within the City, County or adjoining Counties.

Permanently attached storm shutters may be attached but must be opened outside of the days contained herein. Removeable storm shutters must be completely removed outside of the days contained herein.

The City attempts to justify this by saying in the cover memo on page 76:

§93.031– Maintenance and Appearance Standards. This section is changing to regulate the use of Storm Shutters. A new definition of storm shutters is being added to this section. Storm shutters will now be regulated so that they can only be in place seven days prior to and fourteen days after a named storm. This is a life safety issue because storm shutters create hazards for fire egress and/or access by public safety personnel.

First, we should look at the criteria for when storm shutters may be put up. Waiting for the National Hurricane Center to declare a warning or watch for the area shows the lunacy of this proposal. Storms don’t care what the NHC says. If there is one thing that we all should know, it is that the paths of storms are unpredictable. We saw that last year with Hurricane Dorian that devastated the Bahamas and then took direct aim at Palm Bay on many of the tracking maps. No watches or warnings were issued for this area when Dorian came off of the Bahamas, but the NHC as well as the State of Florida was telling people to start to prepare for the storm.

Those preparations would include storm shutters.

Now Palm Bay wants people to ignore the advice of the experts in the field. The City is telling residents don’t prepare, you have lots of time before the storm will hit.

For many, whether it be people who are forced to work prior to the storm, the elderly, the infirmed, single parents, those without the tools to install shutters, etc., the City of Palm Bay is saying “don’t help those people get ready. Don’t be a good neighbor. Instead, wait until the last moment to make sure your home is safe.”

As tracks of Dorian were focused on Palm Bay, we saw countless examples of the kindness of neighbors picking up supplies for others (including plywood for shutters) and helping them be installed. People with pickup trucks were running around loading plywood for friends and neighbors because like it or not, 4′ X 8′ sheets of plywood don’t fit in a Toyota Prius.

Now the City wants to say, “you can’t do that. You can’t help people and give them peace of mind for a potential devastating storm until we say you can.”

Secondly, the “life safety” issue is lacking actual proof.

People who support this ordinance have been scouring the internet to find instances where people have been killed due to storm shutters being up. At last check, people have found 7 instances where fires occurred and people died in homes with shutters still up. Interestingly, all of the cases deal with the improper use of candles which started the fires. It wasn’t the shutters that caused the deaths, but candles.

As for “safety personnel,” there are lots of times when fire personnel won’t enter a building for any number of reasons. (We aren’t sure what the difference between shutters and security bars on windows and doors would be as both would restrict egress and access, but that is just us being logical.)

In addition, a few years ago a house in Satellite Beach burned to the ground when a live power wire ignited the roof. This means if we really want to worry about the safety of people, shutters and access / egress, let’s just ban shutters altogether. Accidents such as fire and downed power lines don’t recognize calendar days and they sure as heck don’t listen to the NHC. Accidents such as fire don’t care when a storm is named.

If we are going to make an issue of the safety of shutters, let’s just ban shutters altogether. Of course, that doesn’t make sense, but that is essentially what this proposal does.

The fact of the matter is that more people die in Palm Bay each year due to car accidents than have ever died here due to fire in a shuttered home.

If we are talking about safety based on the number of lives lost and potential lives lost, let’s ban cars and trucks. We’ll save more lives that way.

Third, we have heard people say “they don’t like the way the shutters look” which is why they should come down.

We are not thrilled with the way that storm shutters look. We aren’t fans of a lot of things that look silly to us.

That doesn’t give us the right to demand that other people conform to what we like or don’t like.

We always go back to the Declaration of Independence which says that people have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Originally, “pursuit of happiness” was “pursuit of property” which was a sentiment expressed by English philosopher and physician John Locke. Clearly the Founding Fathers understood that ownership of property made people happy as it was a symbol of their work and more importantly, it gave them independence from others including the government. In short, absent of any harm to others, what people do on their property is no one’s business or concern.

If you think that it should be, answer this: should Palm Bay regulate the color of your home? If five people get elected to the City Council who hate beige or coral colors on buildings, should you be forced to change the color? If people don’t like the flowers you use in your garden or hate the tree in your back yard, should they be able through the force of law to make you change flowers? To get rid of the tree?

If you think that people telling you how your property must be, (absent of harm to others) then you cannot say “shutters are ugly and they need to come down.”

We have also heard the argument that shutters on homes “lowers property values.”

We have a simple response to that: “PROVE IT.”

Property values are available on the Brevard County Property Appraiser‘s site. Go ahead and find a case where a shuttered home affected the property value or sale price of a home in the neighborhood.

We challenge you to do so because otherwise, you are spewing opinions and not fact based ideas.

Furthermore, unless you are selling your property at that moment, it is arguable that a “lower property value” is a good thing as you will be paying less in property taxes.

What we do know that affects property values are good infrastructure of roads, storm water control, schools, lower taxes, lower fees, trash pickup, etc. All of those things need addressing in Palm Bay, but instead people will claim a right to tell others what they have to do with their property.

Palm Bay has real problems – problems that people have been screaming about for years and have been ignored for even longer.

This ordinance needs to go down in flames on the issue of property rights alone.

While you may not agree with that, the next time the City comes after you and your property because someone has a burr up their butt over something they don’t like, don’t come screaming to us.




10 Responses to “Palm Bay: Living The Shuttered Life.”

  1. Matt Fleming says:

    Hurricanes are not the only reason people put shutters on their windows, and the city has no legal right to make people keep their windows or shutters open or closed.

    If you’re going to try to regulate the ingress/egress of people’s buildings, you’re going to run into real dilemmas there.

    Regulate ‘temporary fixtures’ under normal building codes as needing a permit to remain after 30 days except in cases of an active emergency.

  2. Bob Chadwick says:

    Those storm shutters may be ugly, but they’re not a patch on all the piles of yard waste and other trash that have been left in the right-of-way, and even in front of many houses. These piles of uncollected junk often have grass and weeds as tall as 2 feet growing out of them.

    Waste management won’t pick the stuff up, and the City has “higher priorities”, and the residents don’t care enough to raise a bit of hell about it.

    So… Unremoved storm shutters and piles of trash in the ROW… We got a city looks like a third world country.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Bob Chadwick,

      Thank you for the comment.

      We agree with you.

      High grass, weeds and trash are different from shutters in this simple regard – they cause demonstrable harm to neighbors. Weeds are by nature invasive. High grasses are havens for vermin, snakes, etc. Trash that is left on the side of the road decomposes and gets into the drainage system normally or breaks apart in storms, clogging sewers, etc.

      We would argue that trash piles need to be removed.

      We would suggest calling WM and then follow up with the City.

      The reason we say that is because the City contract with Waste Management has a requirement to log all calls for service or complaints and then submit reports to the City on the resolution of those complaints. The City is a huge contract for Waste Management as is evidenced by the other waste companies that want the contract as well. It is time people start holding WM’s feet to the contract and following up on it.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

      • Bob Chadwick says:

        Greetings.
        My experience with Waste Management over the past 35 years is that their response to any trash heaps is “If it is on the ROW in front of a vacant lot, we are not responsible to pick it up”.
        Last August, after the poorly advertised “Yard Waste Sweep”, I went around and photographed about 30 piles of junk that no one cared about and reported it to the City (Ms Morrell responded). She left me with the impression that WM was going to respond better to such trash heaps, but I see no evidence of this.
        She also said she’d place my name on a list of volunteers for cleanup activities, but I have heard nothing about that.
        I am going to query WM about ROW trash heaps; I’ll let you know what I find out.

        • AAfterwit says:

          Bob Chadwick,

          Thanks for the comment.

          Please don’t take our response as anything other than support.

          We have just started to take the approach that the best way to get WM to give better service (and the service for which they are contracted) is to make them live up to the contract through documented incidents. That’s why we said the contract calls for Waste Management to report calls for service and the resolution of those calls.

          If you are documenting when you call WM, and they don’t keep your call on that list, that’s a real problem to us as is not only contrary to the contract, but it is deceitful because both the City and WM will say “we only got ‘X’ number of calls” when in fact the number is greater.

          Keep us in the loop and if we can help, let us know.

          A. Afterwit.

  3. Percy says:

    Maybe the city should use the mayors city provided car to pickup the garbage (that too is sarcasm).

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