BELLEAIR BLUFFS — City commissioners set aside an ordinance Aug. 17 that would have required residents to put their boats and RVs in an enclosed garage, hidden from view. They had been allowed to park them in their rear or side yards, under certain conditions.
A second and final approval of the ordinance requiring the enclosed garage was on the agenda at the Aug. 17 meeting, but the city Planning Board met before the commission meeting and recommended changes to the garage rule. Instead of the enclosed garage requirement, its advice was to allow boats and RVs up to 12 feet in height to be parked in residents’ rear or side yards, with a 6-foot fence.
A crowd of residents at the meeting voiced strong opinions on the topic. Most who spoke were boat or RV owners who clearly wanted a voice in what changes would be made. Many were already unhappy with existing codes that require fencing to hide 80% of the boat or RV.
Darlene Kavanagh said it was difficult for the police to figure out how to enforce the 80% rule.
“This issue has come up before, and my suggestion was to just drop the 80% rule,” Kavanagh said.
Richard Rich said he understood the desire to make the community look nice, but he felt existing codes relating to parking of boats were “onerous” and “work against my constitutional rights to happiness.”
Resident Omayra Casalduc said she talked to many of her neighbors about the boat parking, and there are some who want the new ordinance to be passed, but they didn’t attend the meeting.
Others, like herself, did show up because “we feel this cannot happen, this is not right.”
Mayor Chris Arbutine commented on the number of people that were at the meeting.
“On average, there are about three people in the audience here. So, when we see a crowd like this, we take your information in and we say, well obviously this is an issue we need to talk about,” he said.
Arbutine said the commission was moving too fast in making changes to the boat and RV parking requirement, which was important to a number of residents.
“We make changes to help the city, to make it better, and to hopefully make more people happier. That intention didn’t quite make it through to this law,” Arbutine said.
Arbutine recommended the boat/RV issue be tabled, a committee be appointed, and have a workshop where “we will sit around and hammer this out.”
He proposed a committee that would include two residents who were present at the meeting, Rafael Casalduc, who Arbutine said was “very passionate on the issue,” Steve McNally, “an avid boater,” plus Code Enforcement Officer Tony D’Angelo, Debra Sullivan from city administration, and Arbutine, representing the commission.
The committee will recommend changes to the ordinance, based on the workshop discussion and public comment, Arbutine said.
Commission members unanimously agreed to table the boat/RV parking issue until after the committee meets at the workshop and makes its recommendations.
Also, the boat/RV parking code changes had been part of a larger ordinance that included reducing parking spaces needed for commercial businesses in the city’s shopping plazas. Arbutine said the two issues are clearly separate and “jumbling them together” had created confusion.
The commission agreed to create two separate ordinances, one for commercial parking spaces and the other for boat/RV parking. The commercial issue can now move forward for second reading as-is, Arbutine said, while the residential boat/RV parking will be addressed by the special committee.