A debate over the storage of boats along Bayside Drive floats to the surface for a discussion this season.
Boats have been stored along Bayside Drive in Longbeach Village since before the town was incorporated 60 years ago.
But does that mean the town shouldn’t enforce an ordinance on its books — which doesn’t allow boats to be stored on town property and in parks anywhere else on the Key?
Many Villagers are fed up with what they perceive as a lack of town enforcement on the sliver of town-owned property along Sarasota Bay to the south of the Linley Street boat ramp off of Bayside Drive that’s been used to store and launch small boats, canoes and kayaks for years.
In March, Village resident Joe Mazza presented a petition of 111 signatures to Town Manager Dave Bullock that urges the town to monitor the parcel of land and enforce a town ordinance that prohibits any items left secured or stored on public property.
“This has not been strictly enforced in the Village,” the petition states. “In the past few years, this area has now accumulated dozens of kayaks, dinghies and personal effects on the beach.
Many residents would like the town to enforce the ordinance, clearing the beach of all permanent and temporary boat storage to return it to its natural beauty and ensure there is an unencumbered area for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
The police department has been counting the number of boats stored at the site for the past 18 months. Police Chief Pete Cumming said the average is approximately 14 boats in season and nine boats during summer months.
“What makes this area unique is it (boat storage) has been in practice for years before an ordinance was in place,” Bullock said. “There’s a long history of use of that property and we want to respect it. The presence of boats on that parcel predates anyone I have ever met.”
Bullock plans to schedule a meeting this season with Villagers to discuss an issue that he says isn’t black and white.
A meeting will likely be held in the Village first to receive input for a town staff presentation before the Town Commission reviews the issue at a workshop at Town Hall.