The boat’s in the basement: Cut-in ‘yacht garage’ takes shape under waterfront Marco home

Cut-in ‘yacht garage’ takes shape under waterfront Marco home

Lance Shearer

The home taking shape on Orange Court in northern Marco Island could give a whole new meaning to the term “boathouse.”

After years of wrangling, presentations to governmental bodies, and permitting, a house with boat storage built in underneath is nearing completion on Orange Court. When it is finished, said marine contractor Duane Thomas, who is overseeing the boat portion of the house, it will be able to hold both a 30-ft. and a 50-ft. motor cruiser.

“I’ve got five years into this project,” said Thomas, looking out over the waterway, and where it projects into the space underneath the single-family home. “There was no ordinance against (a home like) this. But boathouses are not allowed – it’s a view thing.”

Putting the boat under the home, he said, will help preserve the neighbors’ views of the waterway, rather than blocking it off with a boat or a boat lift.

In the house being built for owner Kurt Lax, but not for his own residence, per Thomas, a floating boat slip is built under the upper story of the home. Above the boat slip, a 120,000-lb. lift will be strong enough to lift either the 30-ft. SeaRay or 50-ft. Intrepid vessels into the air, where a forklift will swing either one around to sit on a slab beneath the home, in a space that connects to the vehicular garage also on the ground floor.

An artist's rendering shows the completed Orange Ct. home with boat slip overhead doors lowered.

“Boats cost millions,” said Thomas. “You don’t want to let them sit in the sun and get beat up.” With this system, he said, “you’ll be able to step aboard the boat without ever going outside.”

Lax was not immediately available for comment. He owns two lots next to the home containing the inaugural cut-in boat garage, said Thomas, and plans to add the same feature to both of those.

The scheme is reminiscent of another home proposed on Barbados Court years ago, but never constructed, by architect and co-developer Craig Blume, along with Peter Takos. They also faced regulatory hurdles and made repeated presentations to the city’s Planning Board and City Council.

The internal boathouse will house both a 30-ft. and a 50-ft. boat. After years of discussion, a home with a cut-in boat garage is taking shape on Marco Island.

The cut-in under-house boat storage is particularly suited for the numerous end-of-the-canal homesites on the island.

“We have a lot of congested canal ends. The end lots have less value than tip lots,” said Blume in 2015, speaking to the Planning Board, due to restricted views and difficult access for boats, with neighbors’ boats and docks making docking difficult. Thomas agreed the application is ideal for shoulder lots, at the end of a canal.

The home on Orange Court is being built by general contractor Todd Schneider of APM Custom Homes, after the original contractor retired before all the governmental hurdles could be overcome, said Thomas. Completion is anticipated by the end of the year.

“We got a permit, then the city stopped us. We went back in front of the Planning Board and the City Council,” said Thomas. “Now you can do this on any (waterfront) lot on Marco – you just need to get a conditional use permit.” That costs $1,500 and provides a mechanism in case a neighbor or other stakeholder wants to register an objection, he said.

“We’re in for permitting on the house next door.”

Thomas, who by his estimation has constructed “over 20 miles” of seawalls on Marco Island, stressed the value of the construction method employed at Orange Court, with 22-ft. long seawall panels, and no tiebacks.

Marine contractor Duane Thomas explains how the boat storage works. After years of discussion, a home with a cut-in boat garage is taking shape on Marco Island.

“They’re engineered for 100 years,” he said.

City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni voiced his support for the “boat garage” concept.

“If people want to try this, I think there are a lot of positives,” said Grifoni. “It opens up views. It’s an opportunity to provide an alternative for future developers. If they prove beneficial to the community, city government shouldn’t stand in the way.”

Concealing storage within a house was also the principle behind the house Marco residents Bill and Karen Young built on the island, with the entire ground floor given over to a garage holding Bill’s collection of 16 or so cars plus half a dozen motorcycles.