BELLEAIR BLUFFS — In a surprise move, the City Commission at its Sept. 14 meeting put off for at least a year taking any action on regulating the storage of boats and RVs on residents’ property.
The topic has become a subject of controversy. Last month, the commission tabled an ordinance that would have required residents to put their boats and RVs in an enclosed garage. The current law requires fencing to hide 80% of the boat or RV.
The city Planning Board met prior to last month’s commission meeting and recommended changing the code to allow boats and RVs up to 12 feet in height to be parked in residents’ rear or side yard, with fences no higher than 6 feet.
A crowd of boat owners that showed up at that meeting, faced with three separate alternatives to deal with the issue, had varying opinions of what to do.
Mayor Chris Arbutine recommended and then appointed an ad hoc committee that he said would have a workshop where “we will sit around and hammer this thing out.”
On Sept 14, Arbutine said the ad hoc committee had met, and there was disagreement among its members.
“We did all this work, and we can’t make everybody happy, so let’s not change the law for now,” Arbutine said. He recommended holding off for a year before bringing the issue up again.
Arbutine said that there was not an urgent need to take action, because the ordinance that was up for consideration is already placed on hold. That ordinance was drafted with the idea of making changes to help the city, Arbutine had said last month, but admitted “that intention didn’t quite make it through to this law.” He has also said several times that the move to revise the code was not driven by complaints.
Commissioner Taylor Shimkus said she walks in the city at least three times a week and drives every street once a week.
“I don’t see what the issue is,” Shimkus said. “I don’t see a problem with boats or RVs, and I don’t think we’ve had a lot of complaints.”
The commissioners agreed with Arbutine’s suggestion to keep the ordinance on hold for a year.
“We can gather information, and see how many complaints we get,” Arbutine said. “And at the end of the year, make a decision on whether we want to address this again.”
In the meantime, the current 80/20 rule, which requires at least 80% of the boat or RV be hidden behind a fence, will continue to be the law. That requirement has been difficult for the police to enforce, said resident and RV owner Darlene Kavanagh.
“This issue has come up before, and my suggestion was to just drop the 80 percent rule,” Kavanagh said at a recent meeting.
Millage rate to stay the same
At a budget meeting before the regular meeting, the commission made a final decision to leave the city’s millage rate at 5.35 mills, where it has been for the past 10 years. The budget was approved for $3,667,000.
The city’s newly formed Finance Committee was involved in the budget process this year, and had made the recommendation to keep the rate the same.
Belleair Bluffs’ millage rate is in the upper range of municipal tax rates in Pinellas County, along with its neighbors Belleair, Largo, and Clearwater. The lowest tax rates are along the beach strip, where higher property values help bring in more revenue for those cities.