Martin County holds off on beach alcohol ban

Posted at 7:52 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 19:52:47-05

A push to ban booze on Martin County's beaches has been stalled.

Commissioners voted to hold off on a move that would have banned alcohol on beaches and in causeway parks, in addition to setting hours for those places.

The issue has polarized residents in the county, with many of them saying this move would have taken things too far.

For Jim McIntyre and his crew, it's a Jensen causeway tradition for 2 decades running.

"It's a bunch of us all retired guys that come down once a month for a couple hours on a Tuesday," McIntyre says.

Of course, a few cold ones are on the menu.

The retired fire marshal says what the county is discussing now throws that all that R & R up in the air.

"If people are doing the wrong thing go after them," he says. "Don't penalize everybody for a few people that are doing wrong."

He calls it harsh, but the county calls it necessary.

Stats from the sheriff's office show From September 2014 to September 2015, there were 246 incident reports at county beaches and the two county causeways - a high number, the sheriff's office says, for areas considered to be family friendly.

24 of those incidents involved DUI or disorderly intoxication arrests.

Last March, a double shooting at the Jensen Causeway involving two homeless men left some wondering about safety.

"When it gets to a point when you're being told by your residents in Jensen that they will not take their families to the causeway anymore because it's not safe, you got to do something," says Commissioner Doug Smith.

At Tuesday's public hearing, residents were critical of the approach.

"I would think that rather than ban alcohol, we would be dealing with our homeless problem," one resident told commissioners.

Sheriff William Snyder responded to the criticism.

"I think it's a great ordinance, I supported it 100 percent, the people who are out there doing their job support it," he says. "But if there's not a will for the people I completely understand."

County staff has been ordered to go back and research, looking at potential options and alternatives.

One of those options includes a pilot program in which the county would try changes at one park.

Commissioner Smith says in the next county budget he will push for additional resources for the sheriff's office so they can deal with the beach issues.