MADEIRA BEACH — The City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance Sept. 10 regulating liveaboard vessels after they heard a roomful of condo residents tell of their difficulties with neighbors who live on their boats.

Residents mostly from the Sea Towers condos, which overlook the Intracoastal Waterway, packed City Hall at the commission meeting to urge passage of the liveaboard regulations. The topic had been discussed at a previous workshop session.

The new law is similar to ordinances in Treasure Island, Gulfport and other local beach communities to aid in enforcement by the Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit, said City Manager Robert Daniels.

The Liveaboard Vessel Code requires liveaboard boat owners to pump out at the city marina and get a permit costing $5. They can then anchor in city waters for up to 72 hours before having to move on. They can come back a month later and go through the same process, Daniels said.

During the time the liveaboards are in the city, their vessels cannot be abandoned for more than eight hours. That requirement will help the Sheriff’s Office enforce abandoned vessels, Daniels said. Also, liveaboard vessels cannot anchor closer than 200 feet from a seawall, land or dock.

A city memo accompanying the liveaboard requirements says the boats “are a growing issue in city waters and pose a threat to public health and safety.”

The condo residents at the meeting spoke of their experience with the problems caused by liveaboards. They said the ordinance would be a big help and urged its passage.

The Sea Towers buildings, on Duhme Road, are in unincorporated Pinellas County, bordering the city. They overlook the Intracoastal, which is policed by the Sheriff’s Office and is covered by the regulations in the ordinance.

John Apache of Sea Towers said the liveaboards “continually dump trash out and we have to pay somebody to pick it up.”

Their sewage lays on top of the water, Apache said, and boat generators run all night long.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, for moving this proposal forward,” said Barbara Mazeika, a resident of the Madeira Beach Yacht Club condos. “My husband has worked for two years with the EPA and other agencies to try to get these problems addressed.”

Realtor and Sea Tower resident Tom Steck said “it is only a matter of time before property values are affected” by the issues caused by the liveaboards. He urged the commission to “pass this ordinance and get a mechanism for enforcement.”

Liveaboard boat owner Kathleen Bridges said she has lived on her boat for three years and wants to continue her lifestyle. Only a handful of liveaboards are causing the problems, she said.

“Don’t punish us all for the actions of a few,” said Bridges.

The commission passed the Liveaboard Vessel Code ordinance on first reading in a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Deby Weinstein was absent. Passage on second reading next month is required before it will take effect.

Seafood Festival parking discussed

This year, for the first time, the city will be responsible for Seafood Festival parking in the lots at John’s Pass Park and 130th Avenue, Recreation Director Jay Hatch said. The John’s Pass Merchants Association has handled the parking previously.

A flat $20 fee will be charged for parking in lots during the festival, which starts at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, and continues all day Saturday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 20.

The city will use a valet parking company to collect the money and manage the parking. They will valet-park vehicles at the John’s Pass Park lot, Hatch said.

The 130th lot will be for self-parking.

Revenue from the parking will be split 50/50 between the city and the parking company. An analysis of the potential total revenue from the two parking lots over the three days ranges from around $9,000 to double that amount if each parking spot averages two vehicles per day. The normal price for using the parking stations is $2.50 per hour.

A bus loop will pick up at multiple spots throughout the city and drop people off at the Seafood Festival for those who want to avoid the parking fee.