The First Charter of Naples

Author, Lila Zuck

On April 25, 1927, Town Council drew up Naples first Charter. The Charter confirmed the composition of Town Council as one mayor and five councilmen.

The mayoral term was increased from one to two years and council terms to four.

Effective the 1928 election, and Council was given the authority to fill Council vacancies by appointment until the next general election.

The position of Council President was created, to be filled by election within Council from one of its members.

The officers of the Town were established as the Town Marshal, appointed by the Mayor, confirmed by the Council and to hold office at the will of the Mayor, and Town Clerk, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector, and Treasurer, all four of which to be appointed annually by the Council, which was also granted the authority to hire an attorney as legal advisor to the Council and the Town Officials, as well as a physician to perform the duties associated with a City Physician.

The constitution of the Town Canvassing Board was Town Council, which tabulated and reported all election results.

As Chief Executive Officer of the Town, the Mayor was authorized as Town Judge, given the power to hear evidence pertaining to a person charged with an offense, summon witnesses for the Town, determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, and render judgments and sentences within the limits of the Charter and the Town ordinances.

Among other provisions, the Charter gave Council the authority, upon a four-fifths affirmative vote, to borrow up to 80% of the amount of taxes levied and other anticipated revenues for the fiscal year remaining uncollected at the time, except revenues from bond sales.

The 1927 Charter gave Council the authority to create a Planning Board. “The Council may, at any time it deems best for public interest, appoint a Planning Board of five members. It shall be the duty of the Board to gather and preserve information and constructive data as to the progress of city planning in other cities and Towns of the State of Florida, and in other States, and foreign countries, and to make studies and recommendations to the Council for the civic improvement of the Town, having in view the Town’s future beautification, convenience of traffic, and the recreation and health of its inhabitants.

“The Board shall also report on plans and designs, and their relation to the Town’s layout, geographically and otherwise, and all new public buildings, streets, parks, planting spaces, water fronts, and public property, and of additions and alterations in such as already exist, to make them harmonize with future plans, and to design and recommend the layout of new lots, blocks, and subdivisions with the Town, and of blocks and subdivisions outside the Town within a distance of three miles, when for public convenience the streets or thoroughfares of such outside subdivision should connect with the streets and thoroughfares of the Town, to make them join without jog or offset, and correspond in width and character of improvement with the streets of the Town to which they connect.”

A year earlier, in 1926, it was Ordinance No. 42 of the Town of Naples’ first Code of Ordinances that laid out “a comprehensive plan” designed, in short, to provide optimum services to residents, maintain the character of districts through suitability of use, and the appropriate uses of land.

This was 49 years before the Florida Legislature passed the Local Government Comprehensive Planning Act of 1975. requiring local governments to adopt comprehensive plans.

By the time municipalities became required by the State to adopt comprehensive plans, planning had consistently directed the development of Naples.