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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Dock owners concerned about insurance problems

Efforts by the Holmes Beach City Commission to solve the long-standing problem of dock ownership and usage in the Sunrise subdivision boat basin near Avenue C hit a snag at the June 8 commission workshop when some affected homeowners claimed they are unable to get insurance on the docks.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff presented a draft ordinance that essentially provides procedures for homeowners to register a claim with the city for an existing dock. The city maintains ownership of the canal bottom land, but is "licensing use of a dock" for individual property owners.

The city owns the bottom, the property owners would own the dock.

At the same time, however, the city is requiring dock owners to provide proof that they have liability insurance on the dock, and that the city be listed as a "named insured."

Not so fast, said Sunrise resident Kevin Hutchinson. He said he called a number of insurance agents in the area and each said they "will not give me liability [insurance] on the dock because I don't own the land I'm on."

Commissioner Roger Lutz said Hutchinson must not be phrasing his question properly to the agents. If someone uses city property for a special event, they can get insurance.

"It's not homeowners insurance, it's casualty insurance," said Lutz.

But it's a Catch-22 situation, Hutchinson claimed. He can't get insurance because he doesn't own the property, and he can't register his claim for a dock until he gets insurance.

Hold on, replied Lutz. "We are on your side. We are not trying to steal your dock."

Petruff agreed. Everyone seems to be able to get dock insurance, even dock owners along the T-end canals of 74th Street.

Even those property owners, however, are having an insurance problem, said Pat Auman of 74th Street, who works in the insurance industry. The city will not accept a homeowner's policy that only states "other structures" as coverage, she said.

True, said Petruff. "We want to see it in the policy. It needs to state 'the dock'" under other structures. She said the city has learned that homeowner's insurance does not apply to a detached dock unless it specifically states so in the policy. Even a letter from the insurance company stating coverage of the dock exists is sufficient.

The same applies for Sunrise owners who believe they have a claim to a dock when they submit a registration and proof of insurance.

Disgruntled dock owners weren't so sure they could get such proof, and Lutz said if that's the case, the commission will just "figure out something else.

"Don't act like we're your worst enemies. We're trying to help you," he said.

The insurance issue will be investigated by city staff and the draft ordinance discussed again at the commission's July workshop session.

In other workshop business, the commission agreed to prepare a new contract with Waste Management Inc., the city's current waste-hauling contractor, and place that issue on the July regular commission meeting agenda.

The new contract would be for automated service and increase the monthly charge by $1 per residence, but would run through 2010. The present contract expires next year.

According to Rose Quin-Bare of WMI, automated service utilizes a 64-gallon container that is easily pushed to curbside, can't be blown over or spill under normal circumstances, and is aesthetically pleasing.

Rear-door pickup will be provided to residents unable to move the container or leave their residence, she said.

"I'm convinced this is reasonable," said Commissioner Don Maloney, and his colleagues agreed.

The commission also listened to attorney Bob Green, representing Tidemark Properties LLC, who asked to have the legal description of property redone and re-recorded in circuit court because of an error in the description.

It's clearly an error, said Green, and commissioners agreed. No need to advertise for a revised site plan, said Lutz. If we "fix the problem" and it's wrong, "it's his problem," he noted.

Green will prepare the correct legal description for the July commission meeting, where it will be introduced as an amendment to a previously adopted resolution. Petruff will review Green's draft prior to the meeting.

Commissioners also approved a draft ordinance that appeals from a decision of a building official shall be heard by a hearing officer [special master], and a draft ordinance defining hotel and motel. That ordinance would also prohibit rentals of less than seven days in the R-1 through R-4 districts.