Visiting boaters are on the way to six-day stays in Marco Island — and an anchoring distance of 200 feet.
The Marco Island City Council on April 17 unanimously approved a new law that would permit these provisions, setting a precedent by passing the Waterways and Boating Safety law on first reading.
All that remains is the council's second and final approval, which could come during its next meeting May 1.
According to the proposed law, visiting boaters would be eligible for an extension up to three days after their third day, with proof of sewage holding-tank pumpout.
City attorney Richard Yovanovich said the council could be setting a precedent by approving the law on first reading, and the councilors followed through. The vote was 6-0, with Ted Forcht absent. Councilman Mike Minozzi moved for the approval.
"I think we've crafted a good ordinance, one that we can defend and hopefully will prevail in that defense," Yovanovich said.
Several councilors were inclined to craft a more liberal law because of the limited problems the island has with transient boaters and the legal ambiguity of boaters' rights of navigation, protected under Florida Statute 327.60.
The general sentiment among councilors was that the enactment of an ordinance, a hotly debated issue over the past year, would give Police Chief Roger Reinke and his department a sorely needed tool to regulate dilapidated and abandoned vessels, especially now since a Naples resident has parked his Hurricane Katrina-damaged boat in Factory Bay for two months.
"I think we need an ordinance and I think we need it now," said Councilman Charles Kiester. "Essentially, there is a boat out there snubbing its nose at the city."
Councilman Rob Popoff said there was a perception among the public that the issue is based on a conflict between boaters and non-boaters, adding that the law is only a tool for the Police Department to ensure visiting boaters aren't abusing Marco waterways.
The law, originally drafted a year ago, has had various incarnations as it moved through the Waterways Advisory Committee, the Planning Board and before finally coming in front of the council in January and being tabled until April 17.
Council and committee members found it difficult to craft a law that wouldn't violate boaters' rights of navigation under the Florida law and still protect homeowners from what many viewed as a threat to their privacy and safety.
The law will not limit anchoring to specific bays and waterways because, Reinke said, the 200-foot restriction would limit boaters to only a few areas if they are to comply.
As a long-term goal for Marco Island waterways, Kiester mentioned the possibility of designating a mooring field to have more control over areas where transient boats could anchor.
Councilors listened to a great deal of public comment during the meeting, starting with two speeches from leaders of organizations on opposite sides of the fence.
Dean Heard, a spokesman for the Sailing Association of Marco Island, told councilors that the state Senate and House of Representatives are currently reviewing state law amendments that would define anchoring as a right of navigation, and would effectively void arbitrary time limits some places might use to determine whether a boater has ceased navigation.
Naples resident Brian McMahon said the new legislation should "have a lot of teeth for derelicts," but would prohibit local governments from regulating non-live-aboard vessels outside a mooring field.
McMahon said a mooring field was a good idea and the Police Department would get voluntary compliance if it would make complying easier than dropping anchor in one of the bays.
This story has been altered to correct an error since it was originally published in the print edition of the Marco Island Eagle.