BoatU.S. Members Prevail in Florida Anchoring Decision

November 2007 News

A recent Collier County, Fla., court decision that found a restrictive Marco Island recreational boat anchoring ordinance in violation of state law could help lead to a statewide solution to Florida's patchwork of local anchoring laws.

The Marco Island ordinance restricted recreational boaters to a maximum 12-hour anchoring period when located within 300 feet of a seawall, and maximum six-day anchoring period anywhere beyond that distance. Collier County Judge Rob Crown's October 26th decision said that the Marco Island ordinance was "an unlawful regulation of publicly owned sovereign waterways in violation of Florida law."

BoatU.S. Vice President of Government Affairs, Margaret Podlich, said, "Across Florida other local governments have enacted similar ordinances, that unfairly give local interests control over public waterways. We hope this court decision contributes to a statewide solution that is fair to all Florida citizens." Earlier this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held a series of six stakeholder meetings around the state to hear concerns about anchoring issues.

To get the anchoring case to court, BoatU.S. member Dave Dumas, a resident of Marco Island, Fla., intentionally broke the law in January of this year because he and other local boaters from the Sailing Association of Marco Island thought it was overly restrictive.

Another BoatU.S. member, Donald Day, Esq., of the Naples, Fla., law firm Barry, Day, McFee & Martin, handled the case pro bono.

Said Day, "As a result of Judge Crown's decision and current state statutes, many local governments around the state have advised me that they will not be enforcing their anchoring ordinances and will look to the state for guidance in the form of a uniform anchoring regulation. A lot of credit goes to BoatU.S. members who contacted their local governments to voice their displeasure with these inconsistent, arbitrary and restrictive ordinances."

Said Dumas, "The City Council thought they could do whatever they wanted and chose to take the position of a select few in this community. But they should have maintained a neutral position and arbitrated a solution that benefited all citizens."

In Marco Island, a yet-to-be-announced special closed-door meeting of City Council members and the city attorney will decide whether to appeal or accept Judge Crown's decision.

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