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Longboat eyes ordinance to safeguard area of Greer Island

The town hopes to ban motorboats from the area that residents use for wading and lounging in the water.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. June 8, 2022
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Longboat Key leaders came one step closer to establishing a prohibited zone for motorboats in the southeastern area of Greer Island on Monday, but they also clarified that the area might not be safe to swim in due to dangerous currents.

The Town Commission approved a motion to create a public bathing zone on first reading Monday, and the matter has been forwarded to a special meeting on June 20 in the hopes that it will be approved and implemented in time for the July 4 holiday.

The protection zones are in the vicinity of the Longboat Pass Bridge and the Land’s End property dock, which is private property. One major clarification was made in the proposal: The ordinance was adjusted to reduce the area prohibiting motorboats to a 50-foot width from a 100-foot width. That decision was made in the interest of keeping people from moving into deeper water.

Alan Parsons, Longboat Key’s Planning, Zoning and Building director, said that people have traditionally used the area for “wading, lounging and congregating in shallow water,” and he said the strip of land across from it in Manatee County is designated for no swimming. However, said Parsons, there are currently no recommendations to restrict swimming in the area, and the point of the ordinance to prohibit motorboats is to protect people in the water.

“The ordinance has a purpose statement to it that is encouraging the same kind of activity that's generally been going on which is the wading, lounging, congregating in shallow water,” he said. “The ordinance doesn’t indicate that this is a safe place to swim.”

The restricted area will be marked with uniform waterway marker buoys with the words “Motor boats prohibited” on them, and Parsons suggested that the town could add signs on land warning that there are no life guards present and that swimming could be hazardous due to the currents.

The town has been working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to swiftly place the uniform waterway markers in time for July 4, but town commissioners said Monday they might not know about their buoys’ availability until the June 20 meeting.

Longboat Mayor Ken Schneier wondered aloud about the penalties for breaking the motorboat prohibited zone, and Town Attorney Maggie Mooney informed him that violators would be subject to uniform boating citations. Fines are dictated by state statutes, she said.

“Our local police department marine patrol, the FWC marine patrol as well as the Manatee County Sheriff will all be able to enforce the UBC,” she said.

Earlier this year, in concert with Manatee County, signs were erected posting the area as reserved for the launch and recovery of non-motorized vessels only. About a month later, the signs were removed following word from Manatee County officials those restrictions couldn’t be enforced. And while the signs were up, boaters fairly routinely ignored them.

In early 2021, an emergency project moved the sand to push the waterline back north. The issue has resurfaced because the wraparound beach that forms Greer Island has reformed, and sand has once again encroached on the Land's End dock, putting boaters near and on the private property and closing the Greer Island lagoon off from water flow. Although an emergency action to reopen the link to the lagoon to ensure tidal flushing for water quality and wildlife access is planned for this month, a larger project to move sand near the dock will likely not get removed until late 2022.

North-end property owners have complained about noise and bad boater behavior, which led to the commission to consider forming a swimming beach zone to keep boaters farther away from the dock and shallow channel leading to the lagoon.

Michael Saunders, whose family owns the Land's End dock, said Monday that the police are overstressed, and she said she is certain the law will not be adhered to by boaters. Saunders said she’d even be willing to hire someone to sit on the dock to call the police every time a boater breaks the law, but she doubted that would be welcomed by anyone.

“If we were going to try to enforce this and be certain it’s enforced, we’d be calling every five minutes,” she said. “They back in, they get stuck at low tide, they reverse their engines, they churn. Somebody's going to be really hurt one day."


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