STUART, Fla. — Private golf courses in Martin County will remain open while county commissioners seek clarification from Gov. Ron DeSantis on the state's sweeping 'stay at home' order.
But the nuanced reason for keeping private courses open involves a bit of a civics lesson.
Florida has both charter and constitutional counties. Charter counties, like Palm Beach County, have more authority and can make restrictions like closing private golf courses.
"It gives them a lot more autonomy to dictate and govern the way they want," Commissioner Ed Ciampi told WPTV's Arthur Mondale after a special meeting on Friday morning.
Martin County is one of 47 constitutional counties in Florida, limiting lawmakers say in what they can enforce.
"We do not have as much ability or flexibility as the counties to the south of us," said Commissioner Sarah Heard. "We are not a charter county, so therefore, we are subject to the governance of the constitution of Florida and the governor."
The county administrator’s office is working with a team of attorneys to receive guidance from DeSantis to get the best reasonable interpretation of the executive order.
Martin County commissioners held a special meeting Friday morning to discuss how Florida’s sweeping stay-at-home order affects residents and how it should be enforced.
Relaying information to the public to control rumors and misinformation took top priority at the meeting. Commissioners agreed there is a need for daily updates outside of social media because some residents don’t use it.
To better enforce social distancing on the water, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office has nine marine patrol boats that will be closing and enforcing sandbar closures this weekend.
Sheriff William Snyder said there are currently zero intentions to stop people on the road and set up road blocks to determine if people should be on the streets during this "stay at home" order, but he will enforce a "three strikes" approach to enforcing the order.
"Our message to the community is that now is not the time," Sheriff Snyder told commissioners on Friday. "For the time being some of our liberties are going to be curtailed, and we are really hoping for voluntary compliance."
Residents who are caught violating the order will first be given a warning. If that does not work?
"A notice to appear would be our next level," said Sheriff Snyder. "That is a second-degree misdemeanor. It would be the same as an arrest as far as a record, but they wouldn’t be going to jail."
If that also fails, Snyder said residents can always spend the night in the county jail.
"We have space in the jail. It would be our last resort," the sheriff said.
According to the Florida Department of Health, there are 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Martin County.