North-end residents have expressed their complaints for months.
Longboat Key leaders and residents spent hours Monday afternoon discussing potential solutions to loud music from boats moored around Jewfish Key and north-end beaches.
“There’s not one magic bullet that’s going to address it all, and so I just want to lay that as the foundation,” Town Attorney Maggie Mooney said.
Commissioners asked Mooney to prepare a resolution and an emergency ordinance to consider at the July 2 morning meeting, the commission’s final meeting before summer recess.
The commission also plans to update the town's noise ordinance, which commissioners last examined in 2016. Any changes wouldn’t happen until the fall, though.
Mayor Ken Schneier mentioned several possibilities to solve some of the problems residents have complained about, including:
- Giving direction to the town staff and management to enhance enforcement;
- Work with Manatee County and state law enforcement;
- Request the town manager and police to enhance enforcement in terms of personnel and hours, including the possibility of working on the water until past dusk;
- Consider posting signs in areas boaters congregate;
- Work with county emergency dispatchers to help them better understand the locations and geography.
In August 2016, the Florida Attorney General’s Office determined Longboat Key could not enforce its ordinances in the Intracoastal Waterway. However, the landmass of Jewfish Key falls within Longboat Key’s municipal boundaries.
Mooney said she was a proponent of seeking clarification from the state to avoid potential lawsuits. Commissioners, though, thought otherwise.
“I’m saying we don’t go back to the Attorney General and ask her to reconsider, and we make a decision on our own that this is a serious problem we need to address,” Schneier said.
Interim Police Chief George Turner said police use their two boats to patrol the waters from 10 a.m. to about 8 p.m. seven days a week unless rough weather moves in.
Turner said the Longboat Key Police Department received 184 noise complaints from June 2020 to June 17, 2021. It includes 23 complaints about noise coming from the water.
“When we respond to a noise complaint, if we get there and there is noise, we have had 100% compliance with the people turning it down,” Turner said.
Vice Mayor Mike Haycock, who is a boater, said he felt that the 23 complaints didn’t match the public outcry. Commissioners have received emails about the issue for months.
“Something isn’t adding up, and I think maybe we’re concluding that it is,” Haycock said. “We just don’t have enough presence out there.”
Town Manager Tom Harmer said sometimes the source of the noise can be a passing vessel.
“You're going to have boats that are just driving through. It's kind of like a loud motorcycle going down [Gulf of Mexico Drive], or someone cranking their radio with their top down, going down GMD.”
Haycock brought up the possibility of law enforcement adding a personal watercraft to help mitigate the noise issues.
District 3 Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Osterbridge said his county has a $400,000 request in its upcoming budget to add a third boat for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Van Osterbridge also requested for the sheriff’s office to add three additional marine deputies.
“We had our first reading of the budget and it received no opposition,” Van Osterbridge said.
Van Osterbridge said the county would also pursue grant money.
“I hope that we can increase manpower, target enforcement, but also target it at the bad apples specifically,” Van Osterbridge said.
Michael Saunders, founder and CEO of Michael Saunders & Co., was among the north-end residents who either wrote in ahead of Monday’s meeting or spoke at it. The Saunders family owns the landmark property at 7300 Gulf of Mexico Drive, overlooking the Longboat Pass Bridge.
“I have been in touch often with staff from issues caused by the dredging, the boating activity around Greer Island and trespassers at my dock and property,” Saunders wrote. “It truly is a circus environment on holidays and weekends.”
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