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Date of Issue: July 01, 2009

Commission OKs draft harbor plan

Bradenton Beach commissioners approved a draft harbor management plan for a mooring field south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Bradenton Beach commissioners approved a broad-stroke draft of a harbor management plan June 24, a week ahead of a deadline to submit the plan to the state for a preliminary review.

Commissioners, as well as city project/program manager Lisa Marie Phillips and city attorney Ricinda Perry, stressed that much work remains on the plan and the long-term effort to establish a mooring field in Bradenton Beach.

“The draft plan itself does not need to be comprehensive,” Perry said. “This is a draft harbor management plan — very different from a finalized plan.”

“As exciting as it would be to have this be the end all, it’s just not,” said Phillips, adding that eventually a feasibility study for the mooring field will be needed.

The harbor plan is part of the city’s broader recreational boating master plan, which also contains a proposal for a non-motorized boat launch at Herb Dolan Park.

Phillips shipped a draft of the boating plan to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to meet a June 30 deadline, a requirement under a grant to the city to hire a consultant to help with the plan, as well as to get a preliminary review of the document.

“They will look at our draft and make sure we are hitting the points,” Perry said.

The draft plan focuses on environmental and recreational issues, and not the finer details of how mooring spaces in the harbor would be rented and the rules boaters would be required to follow.

In a series of meetings this spring, an advisory mooring field committee reviewed other harbor management plans and, using a St. Augustine plan as a model, discussed in detail how a harbor would be operated in Bradenton Beach.

Much of what the committee decided will be used to draft a rental agreement for boaters in the mooring field, Perry said.

“We have a road map of ultimately where we want to go,” the attorney told commissioners.

During last week’s meeting, commissioners reviewed a number of issues previously discussed by the mooring field committee, including how boaters would establish residency, the relationship between a harbor master and city departments, the hours a harbor master office would be open and how codes and ordinances would apply to the mooring field.

“How is the mooring field going to interact with our laws?” Perry said.

She offered an example of her concern. The city has an ordinance that generally prohibits open containers of alcohol on public property, and the mooring field is a public space.

“Would an open container on a vessel violate our city ordinance?” Perry asked. “Are we in general going to apply our land ordinances to our mooring field? Or are we going to carve out exceptions?… Understand how many different ordinances are going to be tripped up.”

Commissioners reached a consensus that the city eventually will have to adopt exceptions to some current provisions and adopt new ordinances to apply solely to the mooring field.

Discussing the harbor master post, commissioners agreed that they want to contract for the work rather than expand city staff.

Commissioners also agreed that the harbor master would have some role in enforcement, but would not act as a police or code enforcement officer.

Discussing harbor master hours, there was a consensus that the office would not be staffed 24 hours a day, but that the harbor master must work weekends.

“A person has got to be there on the weekends,” said Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby. “They have got to be there on the weekends because that is when it is going to be the most chaotic.”

Two members of the mooring field committee, Bill Shearon and Michael Harrington, attended last week’s meeting.

Both raised concerns that the committee was rushed to complete the draft plan, that the committee was not well informed of the process, and that the committee wants to be more involved as the process goes forward.

“I think if you are going to utilize the mooring field committee, you need to create some direction for them on what you want done,” Shearon said.

Commissioner Bob Bartelt said the committee will have more opportunities to work on the plan.

“What we are just doing is finding out if we can get the permitting and what this is going to cost the city,” Bartelt said. “And then we will have a feasibility study.… This will be one of the smallest mooring fields in the state. We’re not even sure we can afford this.”