880 12th Avenue South, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Boaters mean business — that's why Naples officials are looking to keep them around a little longer.
City Council gave its go-ahead Monday for City Harbor Master Roger Jacobsen to work toward increasing the number of consecutive days people may live aboard their vessels while at the Naples City Dock.
The current limit is four days per the city's lease with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Council would like to increase that maximum stay to at least seven days and perhaps as long as two weeks.
It's good business and it's good for boaters, Jacobsen said.
"I get requests to stay for a week's vacation," he said. "They (boaters) are spending money in our city, spending money at our dock and I have to ask them to leave."
Relations between the city and DEP haven't always been smooth sailing.
However, that's changed in recent years, Jacobsen said, and he foresees the lease modification being easier and costing as little as $200 for the DEP application.
"DEP would welcome the opportunity to work with the city of Naples or any other entity on any project to make sure the work or process is in compliance," DEP spokesman Terry Cerullo said.
When the city's lease with DEP expired in 2003, the renewal was complicated by lease violations that the DEP found, including boats moored outside the lease area, an unpermitted addition to a rest room and slips converted to live-aboard status without approval.
The DEP also discovered in 2004 that the city had created a mooring field in Naples Bay without a permit or a lease.
Despite previous difficulties securing the current lease, City Council members said they are prepared to renegotiate with the DEP.
"Anything we can do to increase our tourism, I think we should do it," Councilman John Sorey said.
City income would also increase as slips rent at a rate of $1.75 per foot of boat per night. Last year, the city sold slip rentals to nearly 400 boaters, Jacobsen said.
Changes in length of stay could also apply to the mooring balls — permanent anchors on the sea floor — although the city is not to make a profit off those per their lease. The moorings are rented for $10 per night and 176 vessels bought leases last year.
"We'll make a little more money out of it and the businesses will actually do better," Jacobsen said.
Darlene and Stan Rosen of Punta Gorda, who stayed at the Naples City Dock in the spring, wrote Jacobsen saying they hoped to stay longer.
"After cruising for the past eight years, I understand the reason you have your policies about staying too long," the Rosens wrote. "It can be an invitation for unwanted boats to never leave. However, there is another side to this that many communities fail to consider about boaters, especially sailboaters."
The Rosens listed more than 30 Naples businesses they patronized during their limited stay.
"It's not just about money," Jacobsen said. "It's putting people on the water. That's an important thing in the state of Florida."
Naples resident and sailboat captain Marlena Brackebusch agreed. She has cruised around the world and said Naples regulations are stricter than many other places. As long as boaters are following all the laws and rules, she didn't think there should be restrictions on the length of time boaters may stay.
"I think this is a very big step the city is making," Brackebusch said. "I think it's only going to benefit the city economically and just in general."
Extending the stays of "transient live-aboards" is another way Jacobsen continues to improve the City Dock, several boaters and council members said.
"The City Dock, thanks to Roger, is becoming much more boater friendly than it was in the past," Brackebusch said.
Darlene Rosen agreed.
"For many years, sailboaters have avoided Naples because they thought they were treated like they were not wanted," she said.