Group: Super Administrators
Joined: Jan. 2004
||Posted: Nov. 26 2007,08:32
Public Waterways and Anchoring Rights Enforced
Anybody who yaks inshore has seen boats of all kinds anchoring out. For those of us who own non-trailerable watercraft like larger sailboats but who somehow lack the means and millions to own waterfront property - and - who can't afford very expensive dockage, anchoring out has been a dwindling option.
Indeed, I have a friend up in Jensen Beach who had legal access to a fairly priced public mooring - beautiful 36 foot sailboat, but without an economical way to park it, he'd become a non-boater. But more and more, and especially as the super rich took over waterfront property, responsive local governments started layering on increasingly restrictive regulations, eg. limiting anchoring to 12 hours within 300 ft of a sea wall and to 6 days elsewhere (Collier County). Southeast Florida is much worse.
But the tide may be turning...
|Published November 24, 2007|
A Florida court decision could restore sanity to that state’s hodgepodge of overly restrictive anchoring regulations.
It also could serve notice elsewhere, perhaps including Texas, that public waterways should not be subject to local regulations serving narrow private interests.
While the decision is welcome, it should be noted that sailors and other recreational boaters are not entirely blameless in the dispute. The bad behavior of a few helped bring about passage of some such measures in the first place.
The recent decision was handed down by a Collier County, Fla., court. The court said that a Marco Island ordinance forbidding recreational boaters to anchor for more than 12 hours within 300 feet of a seawall, and for more than six days anywhere else.
Collier County is in southwestern Florida. Marco Island is about 15 miles south of Naples.
Judge Rob Crown ruled that the ordinance was “an unlawful regulation of publicly owned sovereign waterways in violation of Florida law.”
The effect of the decision was not long in coming, said lawyer Donald Day of the Naples law firm Barry, Day, McFee & Martin. He’s a BoatU.S. member and handled the case without charge.
BoatU.S., more formally called the Boat Owners Association of the United States, has more than 650,000 members and bills itself as the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters.
A lot of them are in Florida, and many of those didn’t like what was happening as more and more local anchoring measures were passed.
One BoatU.S. member, Dave Dumas, who lives on Marco Island, intentionally broke the law last January, to serve as a test case in the fight against anchoring measures he and fellow members of the Sailing Association of Marco Island believed were too restrictive.
So did lawyer Day, also a BoatU.S. member, who successfully defended Dumas.
“As a result of Judge Crown’s decision and current state statutes,” Day said, “many local governments … have advised me they will not be enforcing their anchoring ordinances and will look to the state for guidance in the form of a uniform anchoring regulation.”
Former defendant Dumas said: “The city council thought they could do whatever they wanted and chose to take the position of a select few in this community. But they should have maintained a neutral position and arbitrated a solution that benefited all citizens.”
BoatU.S. was pleased. Margaret Podlich, its vice president of government affairs, said that “across Florida other local governments have enacted similar ordinances that unfairly give local interests control over public waterways.
“We hope this court decision contributes to a statewide solution that is fair to all Florida citizens,” Podlich said.
That, of course, should be the goal for everybody, not only in Florida but in Texas and everywhere else.
Waterside residents shouldn’t have to put up with the bad behavior of a few — everything for noise to nudity and the literal befouling of the water by inconsiderate people on unsightly and ill-kept watercraft. But their defense should be enforcement of measures aimed at such behavior rather than blanket bans on anchoring.
We who sail should be able to anchor without the threat of fines or worse resulting from unreasonable ordinances. But we should do so with consideration and respect for others — for fellow sailors and for those who choose to live beside the water as well.
John Ira Petty, a sailing instructor and licensed captain, is the sailing columnist for The Galvestion Daily News.
Remember, public access is well established in Florida Law, but heavily influenced local politicians have attempted to chip away at these rights. Enter the court and cases like the above which enforce the law and protect the public.
Yet another reason for preventing a unitary executive or legislative branch. In case you haven't noticed there's a theme here - be it Fisher Island, Jupiter Island, most oceanfront property and the Keys - prime property has been acquired by private interests who then work to reduce, restrict or eliminate public access.
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