Bradenton Beach commissioners last week delayed a decision on whether to eliminate an annual registration for extended boater stays in the city-patrolled waters south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
The city commission isn’t ready to bail on a resolution they adopted last fall creating a registration for boaters in the Bradenton Beach Mooring Field south of the Bridge Street pier.
But the commission may repeal the ordinance if they think the measure will sink in a review by a special master in a quasi-judicial hearing scheduled for July.
In October 2010, the commission adopted a resolution requiring boaters anchoring their vessels in the mooring field for extended periods to register with the city. Several years ago, Bradenton Beach, under a state statute, secured jurisdiction of the bay and Gulf waters extending 500 feet from shore.
Police Chief Sam Speciale said his department needed the registration requirement to know who was living on the boats and how to reach boaters in an emergency — a hurricane, a sinking vessel or a break-away boat.
A break-away boat can cost the city thousands of dollars, Speciale said, adding, “This gets to be a heck of an expense for us.”
The chief said the annual $15 fee attached to the registration was just an administration fee: “That’s 4 cents a day.”
Some boaters grumbled about the registration requirement, and a challenge is pending a review by city-appointed special master Harold Youmans.
During a meeting June 16, commissioners, Mayor Bob Bartelt, city attorney Ricinda Perry and Speciale discussed whether to proceed with the special-master process or repeal the resolution. A decision was delayed until a meeting July 7.
The commission, going into last week’s meeting, was facing a recommendation from Perry to strike the resolution, which would eliminate the registration rule.
The proposal stated, “After considering public comment and having considered supporting documentation and testimony from the staff, the city commission of the city of Bradenton Beach has determined it be to in the best interest of the city to repeal Resolution 10-768.”
In a memo to commissioners, Perry said the purpose for the registration program was to address “a recurrent problem with the mooring of derelict vessels” in city waters. “Specifically, a number of vessels were abandoned and causing damage to public property, including the city pier.”
Since then, code enforcement officer Gail Garneau has worked to clear the anchorage field of derelict vessels. Perry, in the memo, stated, “The derelict vessel issue has been resolved.”
The attorney also noted, “This, coupled with the recent demands that sea turtle season has placed on the code enforcement department, has led to the need to reevaluate the means and needs of enforcement in city waters.”
Additionally, Perry told commissioners that while she believed the resolution was “defensible,” going before the special master was a gamble that could cost the city $2,500-$5,000.
“Boater rights are very well protected in this state,” she said.
Later, she added, “I can’t say you have 100 percent chance of prevailing.… But I feel this is quite defensible.”
The special master, citing case law, wants proof that the resolution was enacted to address public health and safety issues in the mooring field.
A body of public evidence exists to prove code violations in the mooring field, including problems over the last year with derelict and abandoned vessels, Perry said.
However, in regards to alleged evidence of criminal activity, which Youmans will want to see, the Bradenton Beach Police Department has intelligence notes of suspicions and allegations, but not public complaints or reports.
Documentation of criminal activity or alleged activity is “what the special master’s eye is looking for,” Perry said.
After a lengthy discussion, commissioners agreed that Perry should work with the police department to decide whether a summary or trends report based on the intelligence notes can be presented to the special master without jeopardizing police work.
Commissioner Gay Breuler said when the commission regroups July 7, elected officials still must decide whether they want to invest in the defense, regardless of the whether the case is winnable.
“Is it worth the cost?” she asked, noting that Speciale indicated the registration rule served its purpose and that the city had received a grant to pay for the towing of abandoned vessels.
The mayor, however, said the downside of losing the registration rule would be that new boaters could arrive and the city would have no way to identify them or reach them.
Meanwhile, Speciale said police continue to monitor the mooring field, including routine checks to verify that vessels are registered with the state and in compliance with Florida statutes.
In other business
In other business at the Bradenton Beach commission meeting June 16, commissioners:
• Approved paying a $5,562 invoice from M.T. Causley for building department services.
• Continued a public hearing on a proposed ordinance on a solid waste franchise agreement with Waste Pro of Florida to 7 p.m. July 7.
• Hired LTA Engineers to survey and prepare sketches of a sidewalk on the west side of Gulf Drive from Cortez Road north to the Gulf Drive Cafe. The cost would be $2,000.
• Approved a motion for Perry to continue as the city attorney through December 2012. The agreement includes a description of city attorney services and sets the fee at $170 per hour and a waiver that provides for Perry to continue to represent Island businessman Ed Chiles and his interests, including the BeachHouse Restaurant.
Commissioner Gay Breuler, noting she wasn’t questioning Perry’s integrity, sought a comfort level with the waiver. “It’s only perception,” Breuler said.
Perry said she welcomed the discussion of “an issue that comes up every year.” She pledged never to sue the city on Chiles behalf and said if ever commissioners became uncomfortable with her representation on a certain matter she would recuse herself.
• Approved an application from the Bridge Street Bistro, 111 Gulf Drive S., for the placement of 45 seats for outdoor dining. The permit allows for the temporary placement of the seating — 60 days beginning June 20.
• Heard from Anna Maria Island Privateer Tim “Hammer” Thompson of a planned siege at city hall at 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 1. The mayor will be kidnapped for ransom, Thompson warned.