Palm Beach Gardens delays vote on hurricane-shutter plan

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Seeking more comment from the public, the city council unanimously this evening put off a vote to allow shutters to stay over windows and doors during the entire hurricane season.

"There's nothing worse than having to look at boarded-up houses. It looks like the neighborhood is all in foreclosure," said Lou Satriano, a city resident.

The council, which passed the ordinance on first reading last month, directed its staff to contact homeowners associations and other residents. No date was set for a future vote.

David Blount, a city resident who goes back to Massachusetts for four months every summer, favors the plan. If he could install shutters before he left, he would not have to worry while he was gone, he said.

"It's tough to find someone to install them while you are gone or depend on a friend to do it," Blount said.

Palm Beach Gardens officials say the registration is in response to complaints from part-time residents. They told city officials they must either depend on a friend or pay a business to install and remove their shutters.

Commercial and residential building owners now can install shutters five days before a storm. They had to be removed five days after the storm passed.

Under the new proposal, building owners who want to keep their shutters up between June 1 and Nov. 30 would have to register with the city. They would be required to provide the city with two names of local residents to provide keys to the doors of shuttered buildings in case of a crime or fire.

Registration would be free and available online. The regulations would apply to commercial and residential buildings.

Firefighters now must break through shutters when a fire starts in a building owned by a person who is not reachable. The longer it takes to get inside a burning building, the more dangerous the situation is to firefighters, city Fire Chief Pete Bergel said.

The shutters also must meet state standards. Colors allowed are clear, white, black or beige. Plywood or fiberboard shutters are not allowed.

"Residents who leave during the hurricane season don't want to leave their homes unprotected. Insurance won't pay if there is a hurricane," Bergel said.

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