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One source of the controversy: on Bayview Drive on the north side of Longboat Key. Photo by Kurt Schultheis.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 4 years ago

Our View: Boat-trailer trash; or is it?


Knowing the history of restrictive zoning on Longboat Key, it’s quite remarkable that now, in 2013, 58 years after the town’s incorporation, there is not a law on Longboat Key’s books banning the parking of boats in residential yards.

If a Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board subcommittee has its way next fall, that would change.
This is likely to be another Longboat doozy.

North versus South.

Longbeach Village residents, who oppose boat-parking restrictions, versus Country Club Shores residents (and others), who want tighter restrictions.

Currently, you can park a boat or trailer in an open space outside a Key home as long as it’s in a designated parking space. What constitutes a parking space isn’t clarified in the code, and trailers and/or boats can legally sit in a front lawn. The code also doesn’t mandate how many boats or trailers can be parked on a resident’s property.

To some degree, it’s surprising Longboat Key’s many interventionist planning-and-zoning board members over the past four decades haven’t specified what constitutes a parking space. And it’s even more surprising they haven’t banned the parking of boats and trailers in front yards or determined how many can be parked in one place. That is so not like Longboat Key.

But the fact these specific situations haven’t made it into the town’s codes sends an explicit message: They obviously haven’t been a problem, and it’s not clear there is a problem today that requires the town to intervene.

Michael Drake, a member of a town subcommittee examining boat parking, president of the Longbeach Village Association and longtime resident of the Village, and Paul Moore, who has lived more than 30 years in the Village and who parks his boat at his home, haven’t minced words on this subject. Wrote Moore to the Longboat Observer: “I have never had a single complaint from a neighbor, or even a second look.” Added Drake: “No one has any problems with where boats are parked there.”

Boats in sideyards and driveways have been a part of Village tradition for as long as the Village’s modern existence. Boats in yards and driveways are to the Village what sand is to Longboat Key’s beach.

If there is a problem, the issue mostly has surfaced in pockets of Country Club Shores on the south end of the Key and in Sleepy Lagoon, a mile or so south of the Village.

The covered boat on Bayview Drive in Sleepy Lagoon last April (above) helped sparked these discusssions. At the same time, some Country Club Shores property owners have become concerned about the same practice now that they have let their neighborhood’s deed restrictions lapse.

Let’s face it, it’s a safe bet to say most residents of Longboat Key don’t want their neighbors parking big, tarp-covered boats in lawns and driveways. It’s not the most attractive sight. It’s the same reason many deed-restricted neighborhoods prevent service-oriented businesses from allowing property owners to park their businesses’ big trucks in driveways.

At the same time, you also could say the possession of boats, and thus parking them on residential properties, would be a reasonable expectation on a barrier island. They’re part of the culture.

Then there also is the matter of private-property rights. This is where the issue becomes complicated and sticky. How far can and should a government intervene?

On Longboat Key, we know residents have allowed the government to intervene deeply into property uses, dictating and restricting such things as the size, color and placement of yard walls, fences, hedges, TV antennae, swimming pools and tennis courts. You would be amazed reading the town’s codes on “off-street” parking on how picayune they are: “A minimum front setback of 20 feet shall be maintained and the parking area shall be screened from the adjacent street with landscaping in accordance with subsection 158.154(A)(2) … Parking area surfaces shall not extend closer than six feet from any abutting side or rear property line.” And on and on.

Many Longboaters like this kind of regulation and will attest that such restrictions have made Longboat Key the beautiful place it is. But this comes at a price. To maintain a certain look, you give up freedom and property rights — the freedom to use what is rightfully yours as you wish. Although Americans usually defend this concept of property rights, they do so with one big caveat: as long as you do no harm to your neighbor.

And that’s where the matter becomes its most perplexing. To be sure, some will argue boats parked in driveways will harm neighbors’ property values, thus giving government the right to intervene.

But before the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board and Town Commission adopt more ordinances, it would be preferable to leave this matter in the hands of individual neighborhoods.

Longboat Key’s town codes already are overly restrictive. If boats in driveways are an issue, neighbors in neighborhoods have at their disposal mechanisms to adopt their own deed restrictions. Don’t blanket the town with more Longboat Key-style regulations. Those who oppose the boats just might even try knocking on their neighbors’ doors and asking if he would move his boat for the good of the neighborhood. Leave government out of this.

Now that he is retiring, it finally can be told — the story Judge De Furia never wanted to read while he served on the bench: He walked out of Publix at Christmastime without paying.

We witnessed it.

But it was totally innocent — and totally Judge De Furia.

As a longtime resident of Longboat Key, Judge De Furia has developed a lot of friends on the Key. And, invariably, when he does his weekly grocery shopping at the Longboat Key Publix, it takes him twice as long as it otherwise might because he often becomes engrossed in friendly conversations with neighbors, friends and certainly Publix staffers.

That’s what happens at the Longboat Publix. It’s the town square.

A few years ago, at Christmastime, the judge drove up in his low-riding sports car, exchanged pleasantries as he dropped a donation into the Salvation Army pot outside the store and, with his reclyclable bags in hand, proceeded inside to do his shopping.

Thirty, 40 minutes later, he emerged with a couple of bags of groceries. He cheerfully bid the Salvation Army bell ringer adieu and headed toward his car.

No more than five minutes later, the judge pulled back in the parking lot and began walking briskly into the store.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “I got so caught up in my conversations inside, I walked out without paying!”

Embarrassed, yet laughing at his absent-mindedness, the judge pleaded not to be reported in the Observer’s “Cops Corner.”

We have held that chit all this time. But now that he’s retiring, the truth comes out: He was an honest judge.

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