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Date of Issue: June 21, 2007

HB dock ordinance ready for hearing

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End of the canal, end of the issue
Holmes Beach city commissioners believe they're close to the end of a long process of drafting an ordinance regulating mooring and docking in the city's canals. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

After numerous revisions, the Holmes Beach City Commission is ready to set sail with a proposed ordinance regulating mooring and docking in canals.

The charted destination is a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 10.

The commission spent the better part of spring rewriting the proposed ordinance in an attempt to find a workable solution to what property owners and city officials have agreed is a complex issue, specifically with docks in dead-end canals.

On June 12, presenting yet another revision to the ordinance during a city commission work session, city planner Bill Brisson said, "Hopefully, we'll possibly reach the end of the dock discussion tonight."

Brisson outlined changes made in recent weeks to the proposed ordinance.

Generally, the ordinance requires that mooring areas be not less than 10 feet wide and the dock not less than 2 feet wide. The dock cannot extend into the waterway more than 20 feet from the outer edge of the seawall.

The measure exempts mooring areas and docks in waterways that qualify as basins — 85th Street Canal, the T-end canal between Baronet and Concord Lanes on Key Royal, the Marina Court canal basin, the 83rd Street and 77th Street canal basins, and the basin between 68th and 69th streets.

The ordinance would require that accessory mooring and boat docks be associated with a principal use on an abutting lot, but allow for "grandfathering" mooring areas and docks not associated with principal uses at certain locations. Those locations include the dead-end canals between 71st and 72nd streets and between 67th and 68th streets.

The ordinance would allow property owners to negotiate their own agreements for mooring and areas and docks, which can be registered with the city.

Commissioners had wanted to cap the length of the agreement to 15 years, but, after hearing from citizens and city attorney Patricia Petruff, agreed to no time limit.

The ordinance would require that in situations where agreements now exist, they must be re-affirmed after the ordinance is adopted.

Brisson said one new provision "allows boats and davits to extend beyond the 20-foot limitation imposed on docks at the terminus of a dead-end canal" provided the boats don't interfere with navigation or impinge on others' mooring rights.

Another change specifies that if a dock falls into disrepair or becomes a hazard, the city would take code enforcement action.

"These are all of the conditions and concerns that we discussed," Brisson said. "They are included in the ordinance."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several people — two property owners and an attorney — spoke about the docks in the canal between 71st and 72nd streets. The location is the subject of a longstanding legal dispute between the property owners over the history of how long the docks have existed and how to go forward with sharing the relatively tight space.

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, the docks in the canal must be rebuilt. "That's the only way this would work," Brisson said.

Petruff said, "My best advice is for these ... people to get together and rebuild those docks. The fall-back position is to not do anything and let the court decide."

The dispute remains contentious, but commissioners agreed last week that the proposed ordinance is fair and comprehensive and should go forward.

"Our focus is getting this done," said Sandy Haas-Martens, who chairs the commission. "I think we worked out the bugs."

"I really feel like this is it," said Commissioner David Zaccagnino.

The commission's next meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

In addition to a public hearing on the dock ordinance, the commission plans to vote on a 30-year, non-exclusive franchise agreement with Florida Power & Light and discuss a proposed sign ordinance.