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Beach Beacon
Madeira Beach wants to buy Don’s Dock
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Photo by NANCY AYERS
A forklift sits next to a row of outboard motors at Don’s Dock in Madeira Beach. The city of Madeira Beach is taking steps to buy the facility at the east end of the John’s Pass Village boardwalk and add transient boat slips.
MADEIRA BEACH – City leaders hope to make a purchase soon that will allow boaters to dock on the Madeira Beach side of John’s Pass.

Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford told commissioners April 22 the city has an opportunity to purchase Don’s Dock at John’s Pass Village and expand its presence in the highly profitable marina business.

Don’s Dock is at the east end of the boardwalk along John’s Pass. The current tenant is interested in purchasing it, Crawford said, but the owner is interested in getting the city involved.

The dockage space has room for 22 transient boat slips, plus a ship’s store where fuel and supplies could be purchased. The city marina on Tom Stuart Causeway has proven to be a profit maker, and Don’s Dock would be a satellite marina, Crawford said.

The purchase would appear to be a perfect fit for the city, he said.

“If you look at John’s Pass and say ‘Where should the city buy a piece of property or get involved?’ Wow – this is perfect,” said Crawford. “We’ve got a very knowledgeable marina guy (Dave Marsicano) that knows how to do it and he’s turned his marina into a profit making funds for us.”

Crawford noted the city has been spending a lot of money on projects lately, but “This is an opportunity that, if you pass it up, we may never get it again.”

Crawford proceeded to show how the city could afford to pay for the purchase of Don’s Dock, with an asking price of about $1.4 million and about $200,000 in improvements needed.

He recommended the city make a down payment of approximately $500,000 and borrow the rest. The initial payment could come from $300,000 that is in this year’s budget for transient boat slips, plus other budgeted items that can be cut or delayed such as an electronic welcome sign and a pump-out boat. Pump-out stations would be available at the city marina and Don’s Dock, Crawford said.

The debt service on a loan would be “very, very manageable,” he said. Crawford said the purchase of Don’s Dock would pay for itself. The operation could possibly break even in the first year, and start making money after that.

Central Services Director Dave Marsicano, who runs the city marina, said the Don’s Dock purchase and operation would be “very doable and manageable.” The transient docks would be a big plus, he said adding that “transient dock money” in the form of grants could be available from the state to offset the costs.

Marsicano said the Don’s Dock facility had some challenges, but offers great potential.

“It provides some way to get to John’s Pass Village by boat,” he said. “It opens up the area to residents from Treasure Island, St. Pete Beach and elsewhere where we have missed the boat so far.”

Adding Don’s Dock to the city’s assets excited the commission members.

“This is a win, win, win, win, win,” said Commissioner Terry Lister.

Mayor Travis Palladeno also endorsed the idea. Palladeno said he often hears from people who complain they can’t go to John’s Pass Village by boat. The transient boat slips would answer a real need, and the city would have a presence in an operation that would attract people to the east end of John’s Pass, he said.

The commission agreed to take steps to purchase Don’s Dock. A feasibility study will be done to determine the cost of transient docks and other needed renovations.

When that is completed, the intent is to sign an agreement obligating the city to purchase the property. Crawford stressed the need to move quickly with the purchase, as the current tenant has also expressed an interest in buying it. The city would take possession next June when the current tenant’s lease expires.

Underground utilities

The undergrounding of utility wires on Gulf Boulevard in the city has been discussed before, then put aside because of the cost. An engineering consultant hired by the city presented a partial undergrounding plan, which Crawford said is affordable.

A proposal by Steve Tart of CPWG Engineering would eliminate the wires crossing Gulf Boulevard from 133rd to 150th avenues, and all the wires from 150th to 155th. That would be two-thirds of the city, but it would not include John’s Pass Village.

The cost would be a little over $3 million vs. $9 million for the complete Gulf Boulevard undergrounding, Tart said. The work would be done in coordination with a planned FDOT road resurfacing project.

To finance the project, Tenaglia said the city would borrow money short term that would be reimbursed from $3.3 million in county Penny for Pinellas and Gulf Boulevard beautification funds the city is due to receive.

The commission decided to move ahead with the undergrounding project. Marsicano said the job could “start rolling as soon as possible” with a completion date of 18 to 24 months or possibly as late as 2017-18, depending on the availability of funding.

Short-term rentals

Illegal weekend and weekly rental of homes in the city’s residential neighborhoods, where a three- to six-month minimum rental is the law, is a growing problem, Commissioner Elaine Poe said.

The number of homes being offered for short-term rentals has doubled from 1,000 in February to around 2,000 currently, Poe estimated.

Poe offered a number of possible ways to deal with the problem, including an ordinance that would impose a fine of up to $500 per day on violators. She said the city needs to step up enforcement of existing rental laws and get help in identifying properties in violation.

Crawford said a lack of education on the law was a big part of the problem, in his view. Lister agreed.

“A mass mailing to property owners will get the word around real quick,” said Crawford. “Let’s do the education first,” he urged. Crawford said certified letters will be sent to property owners known to be in violation of the law.

Poe appeared doubtful a strictly educational approach would solve the problem. “We have already sent out numerous letters, and new cars keep showing up (at violating properties) every few days,” she said.

The commission decided to try the letters and other educational means such as the city’s website for now.

Poe warned the short-term rental violation situation “is escalating to the point it is out of control.” She said city officials need to decide “if we want to continue to be a hotel-motel (in residential areas), or put the tourists where they need to be.”

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