About 20 years after the measure was proposed, the Sarasota City Commission this month or next will review a mooring ordinance, however area boaters remain as adamantly opposed to the process as they were at the outset.
The language commissioners directed city staff to draft in December says boaters will not be allowed to drop anchor closer than 150 feet from the perimeter of a managed mooring field, which staff says should be operational by summer.
To protect the privacy of waterfront homeowners, boaters also won’t be able to anchor any closer to shore than 150 feet, and they won’t be permitted to stay in one place longer than 12 hours.
The proposed language also states that boats can only remain at anchor in the mooring field for 90 days before having to relocate to another spot. City officials hope that measure will help them identify derelict boats — those that can’t move under their own power.
While Commissioner Shannon Snyder last month called the ordinance language “common decency,” boaters have called it “overregulation.”
“Why is it needed and why alienate the boating community?” asked Ken Boehme during a December meeting.
Boehme, who lives on his 45-foot sailboat in Sarasota Bay, said, “There are no problems now” with boats in the mooring field by Bayfront Park.
But mainlanders suggest the city should do more to regulate boaters, who they believe pollute the bay while blocking residents’ waterfront views.
“Some boaters simply don’t want to pay their load,” said Golden Gate Point resident Ronald Ward, who maintains that many boaters discharge their waste directly into the bay. “We don’t want any of these boaters out there that close to shore now.”
By summer, the city plans to have completed construction of the mooring field, with 35 mooring balls secured by chains at the bottom of Sarasota Bay.
While Florida cities and counties have had no control over where boats can anchor and for how long, the city of Sarasota is one of five local governments participating in a state pilot program to create new regulations governing boaters, including those in that mooring field.
Project manager Tony Russo explained the rules would apply to both the future Bayfront Marina and the Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s mooring field.
Plans call for Marina Jack to manage the city harbor area, where vessels will hook up to the mooring balls. Marina Jack staff will collect rent, provide restrooms, shower and laundry facilities and pump out sewage holding tanks, as well as ferry ashore boaters who have moored in the field.
Boaters and the public will have an opportunity to express their concerns at two more public hearings, which will be scheduled this year.
More than 75 boaters filled City Hall last year to denounce any mooring ordinance; they are expected to make their feelings known again once the ordinance is ready for presentation to the City Commission.
Paul Gilbert, a boater for the past 45 years who calls Sarasota Bay his home every winter, just wishes the city would allow boaters to anchor outside the mooring field for as long as they like.
“I object to having my rights as a legitimate cruising sailor threatened and want the freedom to come and go as I please as I continue to spend money in your fair city,” Gilbert said.
Many of the boats that moor in Sarasota Bay do not have current registrations and the city is forced to remove derelict vessels. In the past 10 years, more than 180 derelict vessels have been removed at the expense of the taxpayers.