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Longboat Key Monday, Jun. 21, 2021 7 months ago

Longboat Key cites floating jungle gym owner

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Fun Life Entertainment's floating playground is often moored just east of the Longboat Pass Bridge.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Fun Life Entertainment owner Edwin Toro insists he wants to make an honest living with his floating jungle gym.

Toro’s floating jungle gym is often docked near Beer Can Island just east of the Longboat Pass Bridge for private parties.

“It’s not any different than anybody who rents a Jet Ski or rents a pontoon boat or a kayak or a paddleboard, and they decide to bring it here and enjoy it,” Toro said. “I guess Longboat is trying to kick people out or something. I really don’t understand their motive.”

Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons said the town issued Toro a $100 citation for conducting business within the corporate limits of Longboat Key without the proper documentation.

“The understanding that we have is that the business when it’s operating within the town is open to anyone to be able to arrange for private parties,” Parsons said. “And, if I can arrange for a private party, you can arrange for a private party, anyone else can arrange for a private part, that’s still a commercial activity.”

Fun Life Entertainment's floating jungle gym is seen on June 16 docked to the east of the Longboat Pass Bridge near Greer Island.

Parsons said anyone conducting commercial activity in a public place within the town, the person has to have a concessionaire agreement or a special event permit.

“If you’re renting say a pontoon boat, you’re the only one that’s using it,” Parsons said. “If you take a pontoon boat to a public place, and then anyone can arrange to rent it from you, then that’s conducting a commercial activity.”

Parsons said the town would issue additional citations for each day Toro is in violation of the Town Code. A second violation costs $250 and each subsequent violation is $500.

“If you look at a map of the corporate limits, it’s not just the land area,” Parsons said. “It extends out into the water…It does go around the east side of Jewfish Key. It goes up in the area between ourselves and Coquina [Beach] about halfway up the [Longboat Pass] Bridge.”

Toro will have the opportunity to contest the citation. If he chooses to do so, it would go before the town’s special magistrate.

In late May, Parsons sent Toro an email about the town’s code requirements prohibiting commercial activities in public places without a valid concessionaire agreement.

Toro said town leaders are incorrect about how he operates.

“They were under the assumption that we were doing open-to-the-public business, which we’re not,” Toro said.

Toro said that he requires clients to make a reservation by phone or social media. Also, Toro said the gym has a sign that says “private party” to keep people off it rather than try to lure anyone from the public on it.

Town commissioners had a lengthy conversation during Monday afternoon’s workshop meeting about solutions to north-end residents’ complaints about loud music from boats.

On the weekends, Toro’s floating gym is often among dozens of boats docked near Jewfish Key and Greer Island.

Toro acknowledged Greer Island has been a popular spot for people who book his floating jungle gym. However, people have also booked the floating gym elsewhere in the region. 

“It’s not so much focused on any individual or business, but it’s the kind of environment then that once some commercial activity gets going, I think lays the groundwork potentially for others to be able to do the same thing, and so public places are not intended to be commercialized here in the town,” Parsons said.

The floating playground costs $20 per person for two hours of use. Participants or their guardians are required to sign a waiver before use.

 

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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