Stuart, Fla., to Require Generators for Gas Stations

West Palm Beach also mulling ordinance

STUART, Fla. -- New gas stations in Stuart, Fla., will have to have generators to pump fuel when the power is out under a measure tentatively approved Monday by city commissioners, reported the Palm Beach Post.

In a 4 to 0 vote, the commission gave first approval to the proposed ordinance, which also would require existing stations to get permanent generators or be wired for portable generators by September 1.

Any new buildings with elevators would be required to have a permanent generator, too, said the report. Existing buildings [image-nocss] with elevators would have until September 2007 to be wired for portable generators.

City Manager David Collier said the proposal aims to make it easier for residents to find gasoline during blackouts, such as those caused by Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 and Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. Though many stations had fuel available after the storms, only those with generators were able to dispense it before the power was restored, the report said.

Stuart is the latest community to consider a law requiring certain businesses to have generators, the newspaper said. Earlier this month, Royal Palm Beach passed a measure applying to new stations, and St. Lucie County commissioners have adopted a resolution asking the legislature to require grocery stores and gas stations to have generators for use in an emergency.

West Palm Beach is considering a law that would require new stations, and maybe some existing ones, to have generators, the Palm Beach Post added.

Commissioners questioned whether it would be a hardship for a small station. Station owners and people in the generator industry say installation would cost at least $50,000, according to city planners.

Mayor Lois Frankel said the city should come up with some kind of incentive to make it worthwhile for the stations. They might not be able to afford it, she told the paper. I think it's a lot to put on the private sector by the government without offering it something.

Planner Amy Stelly cautioned that any law should impose requirements only that satisfy residents' true need for gasolineone of the planning board's caveats. They don't want to encourage people to drive during a crisis, she said.

The issue has been sent back to city staffers for them to examine.

We have time, Frankel said. It's not the hurricane season yet.

And on the state level, State Senator Jeff Atwater (R) proposed a bill shortly after Wilma that would require stations that open after June to have generators. Existing stations would have until Dec. 1, 2007, to install the generators.

Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association said he fears such measures could kill small businesses that can't afford generators. He also said generator requirements are not needed; stations already are buying them on their own. Business people are not going to sit idly by while their competition across the street is using a generator and selling gas, Smith told the paper. He estimated that 10% of Florida stations already have a generator.