During its regular meeting Monday, the Sarasota City Commission directed staff to draft an ordinance that will require boaters who want to anchor to stay 150 feet away from the perimeter of a proposed mooring field that is scheduled to be operational next summer.
To protect the privacy of waterfront homeowners, boaters are allowed to anchor 150 feet or more from the mainland, and the vessels will be allowed to stay in one place for no more than 12 hours.
The language proposed also states boats can’t sit in the water for more than 90 days before finding another anchorage — a measure city officials hope will help them determine boats that have become derelict or unable to move under their own power.
Although Commissioner Shannon Snyder called the ordinance language “common decency,” some boaters in attendance said it was overregulation.
“Why is it needed and why alienate the boating community?” asked Ken Boehme, who lives on his 45-foot sailboat in Sarasota Bay. “There are no problems now.”
But mainlanders suggest the city should do more to regulate boaters they believe take advantage of the current mooring field and pollute the bay, while blocking their bayfront views.
“Some boaters simply don’t want to pay their load,” said Golden Gate Point resident Ronald Ward, who said that many vessels discharge their waste directly into Sarasota Bay. “We don’t want any of these boaters out there that close to shore now.”
By next summer, construction of a mooring field is scheduled to be complete, with 35 anchorage balls secured by chains at the bottom of Sarasota Bay near Marina Jack.
Currently, cities and counties in Florida have no control over where boats can anchor and for how long. But the city of Sarasota is one of five local governments picked to be part of a state pilot program designed to produce new regulations for boat mooring.
Mooring project manager Tony Russo explained that new rules are being formed for both the future Bayfront Marina and the current Sarasota Sailing Squadron mooring field.
The pilot program allows the city to craft its ordinance.
Plans call for Marina Jack to manage the 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.
The city has wrestled for more than 20 years with the concept of a mooring field off City Island, trying to decide how to establish a field that many local boaters vigorously oppose.
Boaters and other members of the public will have an opportunity to express their concerns of the ordinance at two more public hearings, which will be scheduled next year.