Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa City Council votes to ban fertilizer with nitrogen during rainy season

TAMPA — Tampa City Council members on Thursday gave initial approval to ban the sale and use of fertilizers with nitrogen during the summer rainy season.

But not this summer's rainy season.

If the council passes the ordinance again on June 23, Tampa will join Pinellas County and its cities as having the most restrictive fertilizer sales laws in the state.

Starting in June 2012, no fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus could be sold or used on residential lawns from June 1 to Sept. 30. During the rest of the year, residents would have to use fertilizer that contains at least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen.

Farms, golf courses and vegetable gardens would be exempt from the ordinance.

Advocates such as the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and the Sierra Club say the ordinance would help prevent nitrogen from being washed from residents' yards into Tampa Bay, where it could feed harmful algae blooms.

This would keep the bay clean and preserve jobs tied to the waterfront, they said. It also would save the city the cost of removing nitrogen from storm water runoff.

"This is an approach that will give us cleaner water, lower taxes and actually help your lawns because it will reduce the chinch bug and root rot fungus problems (that occur) when we apply too much nitrogen in the summertime," said Phil Compton of the Sierra Club.

But former state Sen. John Grant, who said he represents a coalition of businesses such as retailers and yard care companies, said the ordinance would economically punish small businesses that feed the city's coffers, and customers would simply go elsewhere.

"What you're going to do is simply cause people to drive outside the city limits," Grant told council members.

Council members voted 6-1 for the proposed ordinance. Council member Frank Reddick, who has asked for information about the economic impact of the ban, voted against it.

A new law passed this spring by the Legislature gives the state the authority to regulate sales of fertilizer. The only cities and counties that will be exempt will be those that pass laws of their own by July 1.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection monitor the amount of nutrients such as nitrogen that flow into Tampa Bay. Those levels currently meet state and federal standards, officials say, but they are expected to rise as development resumes. The result could be federal fines for local governments whose nitrogen levels exceed established limits.

Removing a pound of nitrogen from the environment costs about $3,500, according to the estuary program, a partnership of local governments. Proponents of the ban estimate it would prevent eight tons of nitrogen from getting into Tampa's waterways even if only half the city complied with the law, saving the city an estimated $56 million in removal costs.

"We're going to be saving money in the cost of cleanup," council member Mary Mulhern said.

Studies commissioned by Pinellas County, which already has a ban in place, have concluded that nitrogen is feeding a buildup of muck in Tampa Bay near Safety Harbor and that fertilizer accounts for 79 percent of the nitrogen in Lake Tarpon.

But fertilizer manufacturers and lawn care companies oppose the sales ban, saying it's unnecessary, unscientific and potentially counterproductive. They point to a report from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences that says Pinellas County's study did not establish whether the fertilizer polluting Lake Tarpon had been applied properly.

Opponents also say that not using nitrogen fertilizers would weaken turf, which could allow more runoff than dense, healthy turf.

It would be better, industry representatives say, to educate consumers about how and when to use fertilizers so that they maintain their lawns without contributing to runoff pollution.

Grant predicted that the city is likely to see a legal challenge if the ban wins final approval.

"If this ordinance is passed on the 23rd, the game is not over," he said. "It simply moves from City Hall to the courthouse."

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

City's plans for CIT money

Late this year, Hillsborough County's community investment tax will hit the halfway point of its 30-year life. On Thursday, officials presented a plan for the next five years of Tampa's share of the tax, which is expected to bring the city about $75 million during that time.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn recently said the tax will continue to pay to replace police cruisers and build public works projects, but he plans "to change the focus to some degree."

"I want to use CIT money to seed economic development opportunities, whether it's land acquisition or in some cases park renovations that are tied to the urban core," Buckhorn said.

The list unveiled Thursday doesn't budget specific amounts for any project, but it includes infrastructure improvements for economic development, aquatic facilities, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, Perry Harvey Park, the Riverwalk and riverfront restoration, sidewalks and street maintenance in neighborhoods, traffic calming and water projects.

"If we were able to redo Riverfront Park, such that you created a critical mass there that would encourage future development along the waterfront, that to me would be a wise investment," Buckhorn said.

Established in 1996, the tax added a half-cent to Hillsborough County's sales tax, raising the overall tax on purchases to seven cents on the dollar. The first 25 percent of the tax revenues go to schools. Another $10.6 million a year goes to pay for Raymond James Stadium. Local governments split up the rest, based on population.

Tampa City Council votes to ban fertilizer with nitrogen during rainy season 06/02/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 2, 2011 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102