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September 11th, 2014

Council considers easing rules on boat trailers

K

 ey Biscayne is a boating community, Village Council members say, so why are code enforcement officers cracking down on residents who store boat trailers on their properties?
Two Council members, Michael Kelly and Ed London, put the issue on the Tuesday, August 26, agenda, and local leaders asked Village staff to prepare a new ordinance that lets trailers stay on local properties as long as they are a reasonable size for the owner’s vessel.
“My vision of Key Biscayne is that we’re a boating community,” Kelly said, so he was surprised when residents told him they were cited or warned for keeping an empty boat trailer at their home while they went boating. “I see absolutely no negative effect for anyone having an empty trailer alongside their house when they’re outside using their boat.”
London, who proposed replacing an existing ban on storing empty trailers with language stating trailers “shall be no longer than what is required to accommodate the boat owned,” agreed:
If the Village’s concern is non-boaters will start keeping empty trailers on their property, he said, his rule makes sense: “As long as somebody owns a trailer that’s appropriate for the boat, you’re still prohibiting the storage of trailers if that’s what you’re trying to prohibit.”
While the Village administration stressed it’s not exactly fair to say code enforcement is hitting residents where it hurts – Village Manager John Gilbert said only one person was fined while 18 received warnings – officials also told the Council they have no problem with changing the rules.
“This is strictly an aesthetic issue – there’s no public safety issue – so we have no position either way on this,” Building, Zoning and Planning Director Jud Kurlancheek said.
But Council members did, and their consensus is it’s time for a change.
Kelly said the problem seems to pop up when someone wants to use their boat for a few days and leave their trailer at home while doing so. Or, he said, some boat owners permanently moor their vessel in the water at the Key Biscayne Yacht Club, but keep a trailer if they need to tow the boat for service or to keep it safe during a hurricane.
Vice Mayor Michael Davey, noting most warnings are issued during the week when Village staff are on hand to spot empty trailers, agreed the policy seems to punish people for recreating. “I think we have to do something. Suppose you work on the weekends and you want to take your boat out during the week. You have to put your trailer somewhere,” he said.
Homeowner Louis Thomas said that’s exactly what happened to him.
The Buttonwood Drive resident was issued a ticket this summer when he took his boat out for a few days. Thomas said he understands the Village wouldn’t want unused trailers to be stored indefinitely, but noted he feels code enforcement could easily keep tabs on which trailers are typically used to store a vessel save for a few days here and there.
Kurlancheek said the Village is lax on the policy during holidays and weekends, but when code officers spot a violation at other times, they act based on the law.
Council member Theo Holloway questioned that, noting BZP’s standard policy is to only cite homeowners for violations when it receives a complaint, but Kurlancheek responded, “We have several programs we do that are not complaint-driven. This is one of them.”
But it appears it won’t be for long.
Council members said they’ll take action to change the ordinance, and a former Mayor told them they’re doing the right thing: Robert Vernon recalled a previous Council changing the law to let residents keep a boat in their front yard, and said new rules for trailers is the next logical step.
“For the 55 years I’ve lived out here, this has been nothing but a boating community,” Vernon said.
Village Attorneys are working on a draft of new rules for the Council to vote on. While they do so, Gilbert said, code enforcement will not issue more warnings or citations for empty trailers: “As of right now, everything is suspended until we come back to you,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Council didn’t suggest changes to other tenets of the existing law:
•There can be no more than one boat stored per lot unless boats are in an enclosed garage.
•Boats must be kept in “clean, neat and presentable condition.”
•No major repairs can be made on the lot.


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