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Basin's boats can remain for now

Told to get out, boaters moored at a Davis Islands basin will stay until they meet with the city to discuss future actions.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 8, 2002


Boaters moored at the Davis Islands Seaplane Basin can stay put for the time being.

The city has halted plans to remove boats from the tiny bay until park officials meet with the owners to air concerns.

"It's not a dead issue at this point, but it's something we're trying to make amicable for everyone," said Bruce Engler, a parks department manager.

In December, the city ordered boat owners staying for free in the basin to leave within 60 days or risk having their boats seized. Officials said the vessels create problems when they breakaway from their moorings or when owners abandon them. They also accused boaters of dumping waste in the water.

Several boat owners objected to the notice and refused to leave. They organized a group called B FAIR (Boaters for Fair and Intelligent Regulations) and hired a lawyer to fight their case.

"They weren't doing this in a legal way and our attorney had to point it out for them," said Andy Bartley, B FAIR president, who moors a boat in the basin.

In a letter to the parks director, Ross Ferlita, attorney Mark Bentley said the city had no authority to kick out boaters or remove their registered vessels. He also asked for a meeting to avoid taking the issue to court.

City officials said they hope to arrange the meeting in the next few weeks. Engler said the city is investigating what permits are needed to create a city-run mooring system in the basin.

"There is no sense having a meeting without having any information to share," he said. "I'm not interested in getting into an argument with anyone."

The public meeting will take place on Davis Islands. The time and location have not been decided. Invitations will probably go out to boat owners who received the original notices.

Bartley said he remained optimistic a solution can be reached. He doesn't oppose paying a reasonable fee for organized anchorage, provided boaters get adequate facilities.

"We're hoping that the city has realized that there is a group of organized boaters who would like to have a say in what goes on here," he said.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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