City addressing Naples Bay speed zone ruling

Tristan Spinski/Staff
Capt. Mike Bailey and his 8-year-old Labradoodle, Maggie, sit for a portrait as they cruise through Naples Bay on his boat 'Ms. B. Haven' in March 2012. Bailey, of Naples and owner of a fishing and eco tour charter company, purposely broke the speed limit to get a citation so he could challenge the legal validity of the speed zone in the southern section of Naples Bay - a speed zone the second-generation charter fishing captain said has no legal, practical, environmental or safety basis, and has cost him precious time and money while running his business over the years.

Tristan Spinski/Staff Capt. Mike Bailey and his 8-year-old Labradoodle, Maggie, sit for a portrait as they cruise through Naples Bay on his boat "Ms. B. Haven" in March 2012. Bailey, of Naples and owner of a fishing and eco tour charter company, purposely broke the speed limit to get a citation so he could challenge the legal validity of the speed zone in the southern section of Naples Bay - a speed zone the second-generation charter fishing captain said has no legal, practical, environmental or safety basis, and has cost him precious time and money while running his business over the years.

City attorneys are preparing an appeal and city workers are digging out the reflective tape in the wake of a judge's order tossing out the city's weekend and holiday slow speed zones on Naples Bay.

County Judge Michael Provost sided with two charter boat captains last month who challenged tickets they received after they purposely violated the controversial speed zones in April.

In a letter this week to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, City Manager Bill Moss notified the agency's boating and waterways section of the city's intention to appeal the court decision.

In the meantime, Moss wrote, the city will not enforce the weekend and holiday speed zones and will use reflective tape to cover up parts of the speed zone signs that refer to the weekend and holiday zones.

The state's manatee protection speed zones will remain in effect on Naples Bay, and officers still have the authority to cite boaters for reckless or careless operation of a vessel.

In parts of the bay not controlled by slow or idle speed zones, boaters can travel up to 30 mph in the channel. Slow speed is required outside the channel.

The city's moves flustered speed zone opponents, who have called on the FWC to require the city to remove the slow-speed zone signs altogether in the face of the court ruling and have urged Naples City Council to drop the legal fight over the zones.

"It's crazy," said Capt. Mike Bailey, one of the charter boat captains who challenged his speeding ticket. "They don't stand a chance of winning this thing and they're just throwing money at it."

Provost ruled that the city's 1994 speed zone law had been repealed by a 2004 law that sought to expand the zones. Speed zone opponents successfully challenged a Conservation Commission permit to mark the expanded zones, and they never went into effect. City attorneys argued that the 1994 law had been revived.

Naples Mayor John Sorey said Tuesday he gave attorneys the go-ahead to file standard paperwork to preserve the city's right to appeal the court order until the City Council can reconvene in August to discuss how far to take the appeal.

"I thought we needed to keep our options open," Sorey said.

Councilman Sam Saad said he favored the appeal to a three-judge Circuit Court panel: "I don't think we should be pushed around by a few people who don't want to follow the rules," he said.

The legal defense aside, Saad said he wanted the City Council to take a closer look at whether the embattled slow-speed zones are necessary for boater safety.

On Tuesday, Moss received an email from FWC's boating and waterways planner Ryan Moreau signing off on the city's plan to tape over the city's speed zone signs. Moss said he hopes to have the signs covered up by this weekend.

"More permanent changes may be required based upon the outcome of your appeal," Moreau wrote to Moss in an email.

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