Westbay pushes Holmes Beach to remove boat canopies

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Robert McGlynn, property manager of Westbay Point & Moorings III, talks about the push for removal of the boat canopies on the adjacent city property. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

The board of the Westbay Point & Moorings III condominium association is renewing its call for Holmes Beach to order the removal of two boat canopies used to shelter police and fire rescue boats.

A letter dated Aug. 10 and sent to commissioners and Mayor Bob Johnson cites a 1978 ordinance prohibiting canopies as the reason Westbay should prevail in the dispute. The Westbay association asserts the canopies were illegally installed by the city and lower the property values of owners whose water views have been diminished.

Police Chief Bill Tokajer maintains the canopies protect taxpayer interests.

“Just because another agency does not protect their vessels does not mean we should not protect our vessels and the taxpayer money we spent on them,” Tokajer said.

Westbay maintains the city is ignoring an ordinance upheld many times over the years.

“The city has always stood firm in its position that rules adopted by the city to protect the rights of property owners must be adhered to, regardless of whether they inconvenience specific individuals,” reads the letter signed by Westbay board members, including president Alec Graham, vice president Jane Petring, secretary Greg Finch, treasurer Ron Buck and director Alan Guy.

The letter indicates outrage at how the situation has been handled by city leaders.

“These boat canopies absolutely destroy the water view of adjacent residential property owners at Westbay Point & Moorings,” according to the letter. “If hypocrisy could be heard, the noise coming from city hall would be deafening.”

Over the past 40 years, the city has denied resident requests to install canopies over boat docks to protect the investment they’ve made in boats, according to the letter. The association is apparently preparing to sue the city if the canopies are not removed.

“The alternative would be to address this issue through legal means, which will cause further undue expense on behalf of the citizens of Holmes Beach and the law-abiding residents of the Westbay Point and Mooring community,” according to the letter.

In January, the city of Holmes Beach installed canopy covers over two boats on lifts at the city-owned docks adjacent to the 63rd Street boat ramp in cooperation with the West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

The city marine patrol boat and a new WMFR rescue boat are maintained at the dock.

The Westbay campaign against the canopies began in March.

The canopies were installed by the city without public input or public notice, leaving the condo association to object after the fact, according to the letter.

The city paid $4,963 to professional land surveyors Leo Mills & Associates Inc. of Palmetto, to define the respective riparian rights of the city and Westbay, and determine whether the canopies are on city property or infringe on Westbay property. The survey, which was to be presented at the Aug. 22 commission meeting, is meaningless, the board contends.

“Apparently, the city is asserting that if the boat canopies are constructed within the riparian rights of city-owned property, they somehow are not ‘bordering on a residential district,’” read the letter. “The city’s position is completely without reason.”

The city also has suggested the problem could be mitigated by allowing vegetation between the residential and city property to grow to give cover to the boat canopies.

Suggesting neighbors create a barrier that covers the eyesore is not a solution, the letter indicated.

“In order for that ridiculous solution to mitigate the problem these boat canopies have created, the mangroves adjacent to the city boat lifts would have to grow to more than 40 feet in height, given that the adjacent residential property is a multistory building constructed on raised land,” according to the letter.

The canopy issue is expected to surface when the commission meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

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