By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
December 10, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- At its final meeting of 2019, the Leon County Commission took up regulation of adult entertainment stores, the establishment of a syringe exchange program, and a new solar permitting system.
Syringe Exchange Program
The Leon County Commission hosted a public hearing on the adoption of a proposed ordinance establishing a syringe exchange program in the County.
The Commission approved the drafting of the ordinance in November; on Tuesday night, the public had a chance to weigh in. The Commission ultimately adopted the syringe exchange program ordinance, voting 6-1.
The primary goal of the program is preventing the transmission of blood-borne diseases, such as Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS; the secondary goal is to provide a bridge to drug treatment.
Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier said the program reflects a change in public opinion on the issue of addiction.
"We're really taking it as a public health issue, and something that we can help people get out of that addictive state to one particular thing, and try to help them rebuild their lives," said Dozier.
The role of the County in the program would be limited to providing authorization and oversight; the County has not yet chosen its partner, but according to the state law, there will be no funding coming from the local government.
Approved organizations include a licensed hospital, a licensed health care clinic, an accredited medical school in Florida, a licensed addictions receiving facility, or a 501 (c)(3) HIV/AIDS service organization.
Federal funding for the program may be available, depending on the County's need; the Health Department has requested that determination and is waiting on a final response.
Commissioner Dozier said she understands people's concerns about the program, but believes it's necessary.
"They think we're just giving needles to drug users that perpetuate that addictive behavior. But seeing this as a public health issue, we really get those people into a position where they're not exposed to really terrible diseases like HIV and other things, but also you're getting them connected with health care professionals," said Dozier.
During the meeting, Commissioner Nick Maddox said he could not support the creation of the program.
"I can't, in a community where I have watched too many people die," said Maddox.
Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley said she supports trying the program out.
"We need to try an intercept at every turn. These diseases have a huge cost," said Lindley.
There are 224 other syringe exchange sites in the United States; sthe only other site in Florida is located in Miami-Dade County.
The Miami program has over 1,200 participants.
Since its establishment in 2016, the program has:
family members, with over 1,500 overdose reversals being reported
On average, Miami-Dade's program links about three participants to substance use treatment per week.
Palm Beach County is also working on an ordinance, but has not chosen a program operator.
Although the population that might benefit in Leon County is small compared to the rest of the state, trend data shows an increasing need.
In 2019, 45 people were admitted to substance abuse treatment for injection drug use in Leon County.
Between 2014-2018, Leon County had a total of 22 new Hepatitis A, B, and C diagnoses. The County's rate of Hepatitis C infections increased.
Status Report on Adult Entertainment Stores
The County ultimately decided to table any regulation of adult entertainment stores, after a lengthy Commission discussion.
Commissioner Rick Minor introduced a motion asking staff to draft an ordinance that would (1) establish a one mile distance between adult stores, and and (2) create a 1,000 feet radius from school, park, neighborhood center.
"It's really about economic development of Leon County," said Minor. "It's about preventing economic blight that would affect these neighborhoods."
The discussion emerged after community outcry about the Hustlers Hollywood store on North Monroe.
Minor said he was told by multiple developers that they would not have chosen to develop around North Monroe street if they had known the adult entertainment store was being established.
One public speaker said action by the Commission regulating the stores would create a strong sense of pride in County.
"Absent support for this effort will result in a detrimental change to the face of the City of Tallahassee that will have long-lasting aspects," he said.
According to the agenda item, although there are adult entertainment stores located in the City, there are no adult entertainment venues such as strip clubs or adult theaters in the County or City.
The agenda item states that lack is likely due to the County's Adult Entertainment Ordinance prohibits "nude or semi-nude entertainment in any commercial establishment at which alcoholic beverages are, or are available to be, sold, dispensed, consumed, possessed, or offered for sale or consumption on the premises."
"This is something that has no cost, very little cost for us," said Minor. "It does prevent against increased crime, increased activity that we do not want."
Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley said she was hesitant to restrict any brick and mortar stores expanding in Leon County.
Commissioner Nick Maddox made a motion to revisit the issue in two years, after studying crime around these facilities.
After discussion with Commissioner Bryan Desloge, the County voted to revisit the issue within a year.
Ordinance creating new Solar Energy System land use
The Leon County Commission voted unanimously to change its zoning policy, making the area more solar friendly.
After a public hearing, the County Commission voted for the ordinance.
It would create an expedited review process, making solar permitting more efficient and effective.
At the meeting, the County looked at a new land-use category that would allow for large-scale solar in the unincorporated area.
"This would be a utility company or other private sector that wants to put in a really large array for power generation, and I hope it moves forward with a land use category that creates some restrictions buffers from other property owners and helps to secure the property, but it could allow our community to see a lot more solar production in the future," said Commissioner Dozier.
The goal is to diversify Leon County's energy supply and move away from burning fossil fuels.