Orlando Local News

Orlando council members defer second reading of proposed safety ordinance

todaySeptember 12, 2022 1

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ORLANDO, Fla. — City Mayor Buddy Dyer asked for a motion Monday to defer the second reading of an ordinance aimed at enhancing safety in Orlando’s downtown nightlife scene, following a mass shooting that left seven injured in late July.


What You Need To Know

  •  Seven people were injured on June 31 when someone opened fire in downtown Orlando

  •  Since then, city officials have been looking for ways to make the downtown area a safer place

  • A second reading on an ordinance to enhance safety in downtown Orlando was scheduled for Monday, but was postponed to a later date

The proposed ordinance is intended to “better control late-night behavior in the Downtown area that is peripheral to the robust bar and night club scene,” according to Monday’s council agenda.

If passed, the ordinance would address three different aspects of safety: surface parking lots, noise levels and businesses authorized to operate late at night.

Under the ordinance’s rules, new businesses that stay open later than midnight would be required to obtain a special permit for late night use. That requirement would also apply to businesses undergoing a change of ownership and those making “substantial improvements” that exceed 51% of the building’s value, according to the city.

The ordinance would also create new policies to diminish noise levels from special events, sidewalk cafe speakers and other sources of sound. Additionally, surface parking lots open to the public after 10 p.m. would be required to have enhanced security, and meet certain lighting and landscaping requirements.

The security requirement for public parking lots was good news for Jam-Eng manager Willie Smith. To be effective, though, that security should include actual vehicle searches, he said.

“Have somebody there, make sure they’re searching the cars — like actually searching the cars,” he said. “Searching the inside, searching the trunk, searching up under the seats. Because people are still gonna try to protect themselves.”

He pointed out that while the new street checkpoints offer some protection, those can only go so far if people still leave weapons in their cars.

“What about if an altercation happens in the parking lot?” Smith said. “Because people are gonna go to their cars. They don’t have to be firing in the street.”

Smith also said he highly recommends late-night downtown businesses to hire their own personal security forces. That’s what Jam-Eng had to do about six months ago, he said, after a customer threatened Smith with a gun one night.

“I almost got shot protecting one of my employees,” he said. “So I’m the reason they hired security here.”

That incident happened long before the July 31 shooting that prompted Dyer and his team to draft the new safety ordinance.

Although members of the Orlando City Council were set to hear a second reading of the ordinance Monday, a city spokesperson said the timeline got pushed back, following questions from some nightlife industry members.

The second reading required for a vote is now set for Sept. 26, after city staff clarify two items in the ordinance with updated language, per the mayor’s directive.

“This does not change the purpose of the ordinance,” city spokeswoman Ashley Papagni wrote in an email to Spectrum News. “To ensure a thriving and vibrant city, the safety of residents and businesses throughout Orlando and in the downtown area is a top priority of the City of Orlando.”

Asked which businesses, specifically, had questions about the ordinance in its current form, Papagni was unable to immediately respond. She said the mayor asked staff to modify Section 65.544 of the ordinance, to clarify that:

  1. The requirement to obtain a Special Use Permit applies when a permit to construct a substantial improvement occurs, rather than any permit

  2. The Planning Official shall issue the Special Use Permit if the criteria under Review Considerations are met but has discretion, as limited by the ordinance, to impose conditions on that permit

For his part, Smith characterized the city’s new proposed security protocols as a “give and take.”

“It has to be really strategic,” he said. “And the more strategic it gets, the more it affects the businesses around us.”

Orlando Police Department officials did not respond Monday to questions from Spectrum News about whether a suspect had been identified in the July 31 shooting.

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