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Getting a piece of the harbor pie

City commissioners consider changing a rule that lets boat owners sell their slips with their vessels.

Published August 2, 2006

SAFETY HARBOR - Years ago, the city's bucolic harbor was just a little old hurricane hole, a naturally protected area where mariners could anchor their sloops to ride out the big storms in safety.

These days, the city's public marina, just south of the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa, has 44 slips and 125 names on a waiting list - not surprising, since you can rent a slip from $87.50 to $102.50 per month, depending on the length of your boat. One guy has been on the list since February 2000.

Now city commissioners are considering changing a rule that lets boat owners sell their slips along with their vessels, and not everyone is happy.

THE ISSUE: As it stands, a lessee can sell the rights to his or her slip along with the boat, an arrangement that dramatically increases the vessel's value. To reduce the wait time for slips, the city already has decided to lease slips to city residents only. Now commissioners will consider closing what Commissioner Kara Bauer calls the "loophole." If the change is approved, people who buy boats already docked at the marina will not get the slips too. Moreover, a seller would have to buy a new boat to keep a slip.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "What the city wants to do, if you sell a boat, the slip is gone," said Patrick Whelan, a member of the Safety Harbor Boat Club and owner of the 24-foot-long pontoon boat called Hooglin' at the marina. "We don't think that's fair." Whelan said he and other opponents of the change are "only protecting the value of our boats." Besides, he said, turnover is very low, and "in the last two years, three or four boats were sold."

WHAT'S NEXT: The Safety Harbor City Commission is scheduled to consider the change Aug. 21. At the meeting, the boat club's vice commodore, Chris Garill, will give a presentation which "will make things fair and equitable for the boat owners, slip owners and those like myself who are on the waiting list." He declined to reveal details of his proposal.

[Last modified August 2, 2006, 07:34:10]

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