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Water sports code revisions tabled until August

June 4, 2014
By BOB PETCHER (rpetcher@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Code revisions for the remaining portions of a proposed amended ordinance involving personal watercraft and parasailing vendors within the water sports industry has been tabled until the fall.

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved the delay after the Local Planning Agency provided no recommendations during its public hearing on the issue last week. LPA will re-address the issue in August, and Council will conduct two hearings prior to expiration of business permits.

One particular PWVL license holder, Dean Kerkesner of Rebel Water Sports, had been given administrative temporary relief to restart his business after an ordinance glitch disabled him from moving within 500 feet from a PAL vendor. He called the Beach water sports industry members a 'close knit' bunch and referenced a section of the code that needs attention.

Article Photos

BOB PETCHER
Wave runners sit idle in the offshore waters of Fort Myers Beach.

"We've administered ourselves from the beginning of time. We know what to do," he said. "(Section) 27-51 is the most controversial. Over the weekend, I spent countless hours and I talked to everybody."

Kerkesner said he thinks he has come up with the best solution for all involved. He stated 13 of 18 people in an initial straw poll accepted the idea.

"Everybody will agree to a certain option down the road," he said.

The proposed ordinance lists two options under Section 27-51, which involves locations of businesses. Option 1 deals with measurement from the property line at the point where the width of the property is the narrowest involving the same type of business, while Option 2 has similar language except that a PWVL may move to a location that is within 500 feet of a PAL but that PWVL will not have the right to pick up customers for any PAL.

Kerkesner expects a workshop will take place with affected business members prior to August. Councilwoman Summer Stockton addressed some concerns she would like resolved prior to any action. They involve a congestion issue with the measurement from the narrowest part of business; storage of water sports machines during business hours and non-business hours; lack of regulation for paddle boards and other water craft; trash receptacles requirements; and proposed 12-foot setbacks from the wet sand being too tight.

Mayor Anita Cereceda is concerned about the increase in beach furniture and operations and their placement on the beachfront.

Town Environmental Sciences Coordinator stated staff or affected vendors have tried to bring forward regulations and place a cap on licenses.

"That was voted down by Council and voted down by LPA a few times," he said.

State land issues and private property issues come into play.

"If the vendor is on state property, it's not the Town's jurisdiction," said Town Attorney Derek Rooney. "When the vendor is operating on the upland portion of a private property, we face where that line is on a daily basis."

On May 5, Council approved an amendment to two sections of the ordinance that allowed an expanded cap on personal watercraft operators from 10 to 11 vendors and transferability of personal watercraft and parasailing vendor licenses. Afterwards, it was determined that Kerkesner's business could not make a move to a desired location due to the current wording of the 500-foot business separation requirement. Although another personal watercraft vendor was not within that distance, a parasailing business was.

"Until the code is changed and he is allowed to transfer his license, we would not have had an application telling us exactly where he was going," said Town Attorney Derek Rooney back on May. "That is why we are prepared to changed the language at the second hearing."

That is when an administrative temporary relief was granted to allow that vendor to operate until the code changed.

The new Town legislation also had stipulations that would enable code enforcement officers to regulate the Beach PWVL and PAL rules -which includes having all operator flags, signs and booths set back at least 12 feet from the wet sand- and allow the licensed vendors to offer paddle boards, kayaks and other non-motorized watercraft for rent. Those sections of the proposed amendments were carved out of the approved legislation.

The proposed amended section revisions of the LDC also add provisions regarding soliciting and picking up customers and parasailing vendors not being allowed to anchor in any "no wake" zones.

Town officials had originally hoped to adopt the ordinance with amendment changes at its June 16 meeting.

Parasailing bill now in House

The Florida Senate has pitched a Commercial Parasailing bill -the "White-Miskell Act." The unanimous approval of Senate Bill 0320 by the Senate committee would provide safety guidelines for parasailing companies.

Specifically, if passed, the act would require the "operator of a vessel engaged in commercial parasailing to ensure that specified requirements are met," require the "owner of a vessel engaged in commercial parasailing to obtain and maintain an insurance policy," require the "operator to have a current and valid license issued by the United States Coast Guard," prohibit "commercial parasailing unless certain equipment is present on the vessel and certain weather conditions are met" and require that a "weather log be maintained and made available for inspection, etc."

According to Florida Senate records, the effective date of the action if passed would be Oct. 1, 2014. The last action taken was April 11, 2014. Two previous bills regulating parasailing did not pass.

 
 

 

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