REDINGTON BEACH — The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office should now be more willing to enforce Redington Beach’s live-aboard watercraft rules and control derelict and moored vessels within town waters.
The town’s ordinance, revised at the Jan. 5 Town Commission meeting, emphasizes it is unlawful for anyone to live aboard any watercraft within the boundaries of Redington Beach. It is also unlawful for any unattended vessel to be anchored or moored to any sign, marker or buoy.
In an earlier meeting, Mayor David Will noted the city reached out to the State Attorney General’s Office to get clarification on the city’s live-aboard ordinance, after the Sheriff’s Office said it was not enforceable.
“It was recommended that the ordinance be amended to add the definition of what exactly a live-aboard is; now it should satisfy the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office,” Will said.
The revised ordinance classifies a live-aboard vessel as “used solely as a residence and not for navigation, a vessel for which a Declaration of Domicile has been filed; or a vessel used as a residence that does not have an effective means of propulsion for save navigation.”
Attorney Rob Eschenfelder noted it is likely the sheriff will have no opinion as to the validity of the change until the next case is filed.
“That’s when it’s going to test. We’re going to say there’s a boat out there, go deal with it please, and then we will see if (the sheriff’s legal counsel) allows the deputies to do it.”
“At that point, if (the sheriff’s attorney won’t enforce the ordinance), we will have to have a broader discussion of who does our enforcement,” he noted.
Eschenfelder noted state statutes prohibit local governments from adopting laws that regulate anchoring vessels outside marked boundaries of a city or county.
However, state law permits a local government to adopt ordinances that regulate anchoring of vessels outside marked boundaries of a city or county mooring fields, if the boat is specifically a live-aboard vessel or commercial craft, excluding those used for fishing. State law also permits regulation to restrict or prohibit mooring or anchoring of floating structures, live-aboards, or other commercial vessels, excluding fishing.
Resident Lesley Wilkins asked, “Since we are talking about live-aboards, is there any remedy for boats a person is not living on, as their primary residence, but it’s a derelict vessel just anchored out there? Is there anything we’re going to be able to do to not have the next sailboat graveyard right outside our waters?”
Will said that is part of the revised ordinance.
“It’s not a parking lot,” he added.
The mayor emphasized the ordinance says “it shall be unlawful for any unattended watercraft to be anchored or moored to any public sign, marker or buoy within the jurisdictional waters of the town.”
Eschenfelder advised “the Florida Legislature has preempted some of this topic to the state itself. It has allowed local governments to retain some ability to regulate on a local level, live-aboard is one of those.”
He added “there is also a bill that’s been filed for this upcoming legislative session that even tightens up derelicts a lot more than the current statute does. The deputies know not only our codes but the state statutes, so in any given circumstance our code may apply, or the state law may apply, or they both may apply.”