BRADENTON BEACH – City officials continue their quest for more effective anchorage enforcement of the unmanaged navigable waters near the Bridge Street Pier.
Those unmanaged waters and the liveaboard boaters were discussed at the Wednesday, July 31, city commission work meeting.
The discussion began with public comment from neighboring resident Mary Bell.
“The anchorage and the mooring area is a big part of our community. I’ve lived here four years and I’d have to say it is a deteriorating part of our community. That particular area is the sore thumb in the midst of very positive progress going on all around it,” Bell said.
Her concerns include vessels being rented to other liveaboards, raw sewage being discharged into the bay, anchored boats serving as floating billboards, noise and more.
“You can get some really rowdy behavior out there, especially at night – lots of fighting, lots of drug traffic too,” Bell said.
Lt. John Cosby and Officer Eric Hill lead the Bradenton Beach Police Department’s marine enforcement efforts. A special act of the Florida Legislature in 2006 gives the city jurisdiction of the bay waters within 1,500 feet of the shoreline from Eighth Street South to the south side of the Cortez Bridge.
Cosby, Police Chief Sam Speciale and City Attorney Ricinda Perry have been discussing possible tweaks to the city’s marine anchorage and mooring ordinance and they were further discussed at last week’s meeting.
Cosby addressed Bell’s concerns and provided the commission with an honest assessment of the city’s enforcement capabilities and limitations.
Cosby said sewage discharge is governed by state and federal agencies and enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard. He said the Coast Guard recently inspected three boats anchored near the pier. Citations were issued and the judge levied fines, but the court does not order boat owners to correct problems they’re cited for.
Cosby said this creates a repetitive enforcement scenario that often results in new citations being issued for the same offenses after 30 days have passed.
Cosby said only five empty or abandoned boats remain in those city-patrolled waters. He said three of those were tagged for potential removal last week and two more will be tagged this week. Cosby expects at least one of the tagged boats to be temporarily relocated to Palmetto.
“Once they’re out of our jurisdiction, I can’t do anything to them. If they come back, I have to start this process all over again,” Cosby said.
“Everybody else is liveaboard. I have no way to remove these people off the boat in order to take the boat. All I can do is continue to cite them and go through the court system. We’re putting as much pressure as we can put on. I don’t know what else we can do. Our hands are really tied.” Cosby said.
Cosby said the enforcement challenges are partially the result of state legislators’ reluctance to take on Florida’s powerful boating lobby and enact stronger laws and regulations regarding non-compliant vessels.
Cosby said 38 derelict vessels have been removed in the past three years while working within the current limitations.
“We have some good boaters out there; they’re not all bad,” Cosby noted.
But he said one couple owns six of the more-problematic boats, and they live on one and rent out the others.
Cosby later identified the couple as Jeremy Thomas and May Galloway. Cosby said Thomas and Galloway been cited on multiple occasions for non-criminal boating infractions, and Manatee County court records support that statement. According to Manatee County court records, Thomas and Galloway were also both adjudicated guilty to second-degree felony charges for the sale of a controlled substance, Oxycodone, in 2012.
During last week’s meeting, Cosby requested an amendment to the city ordinance that would follow current state law and reduce from 45 days to 21 days the time the owner of a boat tagged as abandoned or derelict is given to request a hearing or bring the boat into compliance to prevent it from being removed.
Cosby and the commission requested ordinance language that prohibits more than three powered or non-powered vessels being tethered together.
Cosby and the commission requested language that prohibits attaching or tethering floating platforms to a vessel. They also requested language would allow for the removal of dinghies beached on public rights of way.
Mayor John Chappie said the city of Palmetto is dealing with similar issues. He suggested working with the city’s lobbyist, the ManaSota League of Cities and the Florida League of Cities to encourage state legislators to enact laws that better address derelict vessels.