Bradenton Beach puts teeth into marine ordinance

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The sun rises March 13 over the anchorage adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Bradenton Beach officials are tightening regulations to deal with derelict or abandoned vessels in the anchorage area at the east end of Bridge Street.

At a March 15 meeting, the mayor and commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of an updated marine ordinance.

If adopted, the ordinance will replace a similar one enacted last March, which had replaced a marine mooring ordinance approved in 2008.

In anticipation of a managed mooring field in the anchorage area in Sarasota Bay on the south side of the Historic Bridge Street Pier, the commission, in 2008, approved an ordinance to regulate behavior within the waters extending 500 feet into Sarasota Bay.

Since the city has yet to establish the mooring field, the ordinance was updated in 2017 to strengthen the police department’s ability to regulate behavioral issues in the anchorage.

At the March 15 meeting, city attorney Ricinda Perry read the first draft of an ordinance that included the previous stipulations, but added provisions for vessel removal and an appeal process.

Perry said there is an abandoned vessel in the anchorage adjacent to the pier, but the city and Manatee County disagree on its removal.

She says the county claims the city is responsible since the city received a “special act” to police 500 feet into the Intracoastal Waterway, even though the county initially resisted the act. She said the act allows for the city to police the area as an “extraterritorial right,” but enforcement of the jurisdiction falls to the county and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — and she added this component to the ordinance.

“This gives our police department more teeth and ability to explain to the county this is extraterritorial power, not full jurisdiction over the property,” Perry said. “Just like the county wanted.”

Additionally, she said the primary impetus for the changes was the addition of an appeal procedure.

Perry said there recently was a lawsuit decided in the Miami area where a municipality removed derelict and abandoned vessels and people claimed due process was not followed.

As a result, state vessel removal regulations were modified. So, Perry said, the city should take steps to ensure it has the appropriate procedures in place to remove problem vessels.

She added an appeal process and a special master procedure to the ordinance.

Perry said people usually don’t appeal, “because they just want to dump their boats and leave it on the backs of the municipality to take care of it.”

She said the ordinance will resolve that problem.

Perry also said the police department wanted a clause stricken that requires commission approval before removing a derelict vessel removal.

Bradenton Beach Lt. John Cosby, who handles vessel removal, said, “We don’t use city money to remove them. We use WCIND grant money.”

Cosby said part of the issue is some abandoned vessels are used as homes, and the city would have to decide if the boat is a residence.

“There’s been a lot of hesitation to put any teeth in that since all these people live on them,” Cosby said, adding the amendment is a procedural process that would give boat-owners time to appeal before the vessel is removed.

A motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance was unanimous and the final hearing and vote will be at the commission meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 5, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

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