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Palmetto Beach

Houseboat blocks bay view, irks neighbors

Palmetto Beach residents want the boat and a nearby crab shack banished, but the owner says he won't budge.

By RON MATUS
Published June 6, 2003

Next to pelicans, crab shacks and rosy sunrises, the rickety houseboat can't possibly fit in.

Or so say critics who have tried for more than a year to dislodge the boat, which dropped anchor into McKay Bay just feet from Bermuda Boulevard.

Owned by Robert Lofley Sr., the vessel is more house than boat, a boxy, two-story affair of plywood and tin that won't ever be found docking at the Tampa Yacht Club.

Some Palmetto Beach residents want it banished before it sets a precedent.

"We don't want houseboats ... blocking the view of the bay," said Vince Ficarrotta, president of the Palmetto Beach Neighborhood Association. "Would somebody drive up to Bayshore and park a houseboat on the balustrade?"

So far, the boat hasn't budged, despite repeated complaints to local officials.

Ficarrotta made another round of calls last week. An eyesore like that can't be legal, he says. And it shouldn't be allowed to stay on a lot that is zoned for general industry, not a residence.

Lofley, who owns the lot, has given no sign that a move is in the works.

"I own the property and that's just the way it is," he said in a brief phone interview last week .

Lofley said his attorney advised him not to comment further. He declined to give the name of his attorney.

It's not clear if anyone has lived in the boat since it docked.

Property records for the lot show Lofley lives in Seffner, another point of irritation for Palmetto Beach residents.

Residents were hoping the Tampa Port Authority would help them, because it regulates construction on the bay.

But port officials said last week they only enforce permits for permanent structures.

"We don't permit floating boats," said spokeswoman Lori Rafter.

Critics say the houseboat is permanent, pointing to a mailbox that sprouted between it and the road. The port authority's response?

"We determined that we wouldn't take any action," Rafter said. "I can't tell you any more than that."

A port authority attorney who may have been able to shed more light could not be reached for comment.

Residents are upset over another Lofley property, too.

They've also called city officials to complain about a crab shack he owns a few hundred yards north of the houseboat.

Ficarrotta called the structure's growth spurts "amoebalike" and questioned whether it was up to snuff with city codes.

City officials are investigating.

- Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 5, 2003, 10:58:01]

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