Wewa passes two controversial ordinances

Wewahitchka city commissioners were at the Senior Center
long past dark when they unanimously passed two highly contested city
ordinances last Thursday.  

In their regularly scheduled city
meeting, which typically last no longer than 40
minutes, commissioners passed  Ordinance 2021–1213L and
Ordinance 2021–1215L, after more than 30 minutes of public debate on their

 Commissioners have been attempting to get
these ordinances into motion for months, modeling them after Gulf County
ordinances passed earlier this year. However, both pieces of legislation
had been tabled at previous meetings after Wewahitchka residents
expressed concerns over their contents. 

 Mayor Phillip Gaskin was determined that a decision
would be made that night.   “We’re not going to keep
waiting… three or four more months,” he said. 

There was above-average public attendance at the meeting,
and those who arrived late needed to put out additional chairs. Many
of those who came sought to have their voices hear on the matters at

Wewahitchka resident Gene Hanlon, who has been
opposing the Ordinance 2021–1213L at city meetings since it was first put on
the table, was clear about voicing his discontent with the city’s plan to move

“I appreciate the cooperation and the changes that were
made,” Hanlon said, referencing adjustments that were made to certain phrases
in previous workshops and meetings. “I still think it’s going to
have some long-range effects.” 

Ordinance 2021–1213L, colloquially known as the RV
Ordinance, aims to limit the use of RVs as residences in Wewahitchka.
County officials passed similar legislation earlier this year to curb the
influx of campers after Hurricane Michael.

Hanlon felt moving on the ordinance that evening would be
rash, and feared that consequences might go overlooked.

“This is a very unique city,” he said.
“And you don’t want to get into so much rules and copying
everybody else because they’re doing it. There’s other
ways of doing things.”  

Similarly, Wewahitchka resident Jim
Rish felt  Ordinance 2021–1215L had to be further
considered, as he said it represented an overstep of
government power. 

 “My concern is about the yard police you’ve got
going here,” he said. “When it comes right down to it, your private property
is yours because you get to do what you want on it.” 

 “If you want to plant a garden, you want a big compost
pile, that’s your business,” Rish continued. “If you want to sit out there on a
lounge chair and watch the traffic go by and make
lemonade, that’s your business. That’s your property. This is

ordinance seeks to establish parameters for code
enforcement in the city and was tabled last month after commissioners and
residents saw the need to revise some wording at Hanlon’s request.  

 Gaskin was clear this would be the final time the
commission would consider the ordinance. 

 At the city’s meeting in September, Gaskin issued
an ultimatum after members of the community voiced opposition to the
ordinances – read the finalized versions and bring any remaining comments to
the final reading. 

“This is the second reading,” he said last Thursday
night. “Not only that, but we’ve had workshop after workshop and
nobody comes. So, this is the second reading and this is the last

 Johnny Paul, commissioner for Ward III, stood in
agreement with the mayor. 

 “We have fought this numerous times,” he said as he
voiced his support for passing the RV ordinance. “And we’ve got to do
something and start somewhere, and I feel that we need to just go
with it… And if we need to back up and start over, we might have to do

In two motions, the matters were settled. Both ordinances
passed unopposed with a 3-0 vote. Commissioner for Ward I, Brian
Cox, was not present at the meeting due to the recent passing of his

Copies of both ordinances can be found on the City of Wewahitchka’s website.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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