A draft ordinance aiming to prevent vessels from becoming derelict and abandoned in St. Petersburg waters has unanimously been passed by the St. Petersburg City Council.
The ordinance, which was approved Thursday, now heads to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for final approval.
David Metz, Downtown Enterprise Facilities, said the city has worked closely with the Conservation Commission to develop the ordinance. He said the ordinance is a prevention tool.
"We wanted to give the (police) marine unit (an ordinance) to really be preemptive with derelicts and abandoned boats," Metz said. "It's a balanced approach. Intercede before it becomes a problem."
St. Petersburg has been chosen as a pilot city for a state mooring field program. The city has been given the flexibility to write its own ordinance on mooring fields, which are currently regulated by the state and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Aiming to prevent abandoned and sinking boats, the ordinance would allow the city to take steps to cite and remove a vessel before it become derelict. Currently, it could take months, even years, for vessels to be removed due to state regulations.
Council member Steve Kornell said this ordinance just makes sense for St. Pete.
"If we can give staff extra tools that will help them do their job better, we should do it," Kornell said at Thursday's meeting.
“We are a waterfront community,” Kornell said in a January interview with Patch. “When people can just abandon their boats and leave them there, and it takes a year or two years to get them removed, that’s a problem. We now have a chance to do something about it.”
Metz said that the city has held community meetings to not only get public feedback, but also to ensure boaters that they are not trying to restrict legal boating and anchoring in Tampa Bay and St. Pete area waters.
Proposed Anchoring Regulations
- No vessel shall anchor within 200 feet of any publicly or privately owned marina
- No vessel shall anchor within 200 feet of a publicly owned boat ramp
- No vessel shall anchor in Bayboro Harbor for more than 72 hours within a 30-day period.
- No vessel shall anchor in any area that would be a navigational hazard to other boaters
- No vessel shall anchor in the Port of St. Petersburg
- No vessel shall anchor in the Central Yacht Basin
- No vessel shall anchor in the South Yacht Basin
The city said the Conservation Commission could make minor changes but because the ordinance was developed with constant coordination with the agency the city does not expect many holdups. The final oridinance will be back before the council in early May with the Conservation Commission's changes.
The pilot program is scheduled to sunset July 1, 2014, at which time all local ordinances enacted will expire and will be inoperative and unenforceable, unless the Florida State Legislature reenacts the program. The five locations selected by the Wildlife Commission to participate in the pilot program are: Monroe County (Marathon/Key West), St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Stuart County.