By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- A timeline and a list of penalties for violating the county's new fertilizer laws has passed muster by the county commissioners.
All violations of the fertilizer and landscape management ordinance will be met with a $100 fine, with the exception of a violation by a licensed professional, which would be $500.
Violations include applying fertilizer at the wrong time, applying fertilizer in a fertilizer-free zone, using fertilizer with too much nitrogen or phosphorus content or leaving grass clippings and other debris on the lawn, along with a few others.
County staff's original numbers had a fine of $50 for violations of applying fertilizer with banned content or leaving out grass clippings, but commissioners changed it all to $100.
The new fertilizer ordinance, which includes a fourth-month halt to fertilizer application during the rainy season, prohibits phosphorous as an agent in the fertilizer and requires a slow release form of nitrogen, 50 percent, when using nitrogen as an agent in the fertilizer.
It also says lawn service employees must be licensed and take a state training course on fertilization techniques that are friendly to local ecosystems.
The ordinance officially goes into effect on Oct. 14, however, commissioners said they would allow people time to transition into the fertilizer regulations when it comes to the slow-release nitrogen clause, expecting 25 percent slow release formulas to be used as of Oct. 14, and officially cracking down on the 50 percent requirement as of June 1, 2014.
While some commissioners balked at the idea of slowly moving into the requirements, others said they modifications made it a more reasonable and workable change.
Commissioners said they realized the change would not be easy to undertake.
"We're getting into everybody's business," said Commissioner Peter O'Bryan.
"We're slapping a big unfunded mandate on everybody," he said.
However, the long-term health of the lagoon and the input from the citizenry has been to take measure to protect the lagoon, and the commission is doing what they can to follow those wishes, he said.
Commission Chairman Joe Flescher proposed sending a letter to all the municipalities in the county to see if they would adopt the county's fertilizer and lawn management ordinance as their code to have a unified code for fertilization practices.
The Sebastian City Council received the letter and did not vote in favor of changing their current ordinance to match the county's language. Other city councils will be reviewing the request in upcoming meetings.
For more information about county government meetings, visit www.ircgov.com.