LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A state bill that would give landscapers more leeway with fertilizing has some Southwest Floridians concerned about the future of the area's water quality.
HB421 would exempt certified landscapers from local ordinances banning the use of certain fertilizers during summer months.
Wednesday morning, the House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee approved the bill in a 9-6 vote.
Several local community leaders have opposed the proposal, like Sanibel's Vice Mayor Mick Denham, who has fought for stricter fertilizer regulations for years.
Currently, on Sanibel and other parts of the Southwest Florida, fertilizers with Nitrogen and Phosphorus are prohibited during much of the rainy season to prevent algae-spawning run-off in the water.
Denham says creating exceptions to that rule will only hurt the water, a crucial element of the local economy.
"You've just got to look at where we live. You've got to look at Southwest Florida. It's dominated by the quality of water," Denham says. "Here we are allowing a greedy few to deteriorate the quality of our life, the quality of our beaches, the quality of why tourists come to this area."
Those in favor of the move say it would remove the burden of juggling the different fertilizing practices of each local government. Some landscapers say it is time-consuming and pricey to train employees on rules that differ with each city and county.
State Rep. Matt Caldwell, of Lehigh Acres, is part of the committee that voted on the bill Wednesday. Caldwell voted against the bill, saying it takes away power from the local governments, which would still be required to pay to clean up fertilizers that wash into the water.
The bill has at least two more committees to clear before it goes to a floor vote. There is an identical bill making its way through the Senate.