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Stuart/Martin County Proposed Anchorage Regulations Are A Disaster

Fiasco in Stuart, Florida/Martin County
An Article/Editorial
by
Claiborne S. Young
Editorial Director
Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net

Back in 2009, when intense negotiations were underway to help pass the new Florida Anchoring Law, it was with more than a little trepidation that the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net, Boat/US, the Florida MIA, and the SSCA, reluctantly agreed to support a compromise proposal for a Florida Pilot Mooring Field Program, IN RETURN FOR COOPERATION FROM THE FLORIDA LEAGUE OF COUNTIES AND MUNICIPALITIES TO INCLUDE CRUISER FRIENDLY LANGUAGE IN THE BILL, in particular, modifying the definition of “live-aboard vessels.”
The primary reason for all this nervousness was a deep suspicion that some communities/counties that were approved as one of the pilot mooring field sites, might try and use this program to run off anchored cruisers almost entirely.
Fortunately, that has largely not happened, but, then again, that’s probably due more to hard work by Boat/US, BARR (Boater’s Anchoring Rights and Responsibilities) and the Cruisers’ Net (among others), rather than any far seeing, cruiser friendly planning on the part of the communities involved in the program.
Well, I guess there had to be at least one really bad apple in this proverbial barrel, and that entity is Stuart, Florida and surrounding Martin County.
Their proposed anchorage regulations, which have twice been rejected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), would basically outlaw anchoring everywhere in Stuart, and the surrounding waters of the St. Lucie and Indian Rivers, except for a small plot in Manatee Pocket, which is, by the way, is not within easy striking distance of all the businesses and dining attractions in downtown Stuart (though there is a West Marina and another set of restaurants within dinghy distance of the Manatee Pocket proposed anchorage).
On top of all this, these proposed regulations are Draconian in their penalties, and are so complex as to allow almost unlimited interpretation by local/county officials and law enforcement officers!
THE CRUISING COMMUNITY MUST UNITE TO OPPOSE THIS PLAN! TO BE BLUNT, IT MUST BE STOPPED!

Opposition (or any other sort) comments can be registered at:

http://www.myfwc.com/boating/anchoring-mooring/stuart-martin/comments/

You can read the LENGTHY proposal in its entirely at:

http://www.myfwc.com/boating/anchoring-mooring/stuart-martin/

Maps of the Anchoring Ordinance can be found at:

http://www.myfwc.com/media/2408672/StuartMartinmap2.pdf

Also, may we URGE you to take the time to read the comments from fellow cruisers below. Captain Ted Guy is the former president of the Treasure Coast Marine Industries Association, and a Stuart based attorney who perhaps knows more about the Florida anchoring issue than anyone else in the Sunshine State. Ms. Virginia P. Sherlock is a cruiser and attorney based in Stuart, and, of course, Captain Charmine Smith Ladd is a special reporter for the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net, and the founder of BARR (Boater’s Anchoring Rights and Responsibilites).
Absorb all of this, AND THEN REGISTER YOUR OPPOSITION BY FOLLOWING THE LINK ABOVE.

Claiborne,
This is one of the biggest power grab boondoggles I’ve seen in Stuart for a long time. Read it, download the maps, and imagine how it’s trying to encompass Live-Aboards (specifically exempted by the authorizing statute Sec. 327.4105 F.S.) and all vessels.
I think the FWCC is more or less on our side in this. Twice they have rejected the ordinance for hearing, but the County and City have not cleaned it up to conform to the law.
W.E. “Ted” Guy, Jr.

Claiborne: Here is the FWCC’s summary:
http://myfwc.com/boating/anchoring-mooring/stuart-martin/

It would affect cruisers staying in Martin County or the City of Stuart waters for ten days or more. It uses the word “vessel” repeatedly without pointing out that live-aboards are exempt under the authorizing statute, sec. 327.4105 F.S.
It covers all waters in the City Limits and some County waters West of the City, waters off Jensen Beach within 1,000 ft of the shore, and the Manatee Pocket, ie: all the favorite, desirable waters for anchoring in our county and city.
In effect, it would force cruisers to rent moorings in the City mooring Field and the proposed and permitted Jensen Beach mooring field, or anchor in very small areas of the Pocket. The ordinance is over broad, overly complex, vague, and much more broad than the authorizing statute ever contemplated.
Our County Commission passed it in response to complaints by waterfront property owners who don’t like to see boats anchored near their homes.
Public comments are due at FWCC by Nov. 5th; then about the ninth they will publish a summary of comments and the staff recommendation. FWCC will vote it up or down next spring.
W.E. “Ted” Guy, Jr.

Public Comment on proposed Stuart/Martin County Anchoring and Mooring Ordinance
The proposed ordinance raises serious concerns that must be addressed by FFWCC before approving the draft, including
(1) Over-reaching and over-broad regulations that go far beyond the intent of the pilot program;
(2) Complex and difficult to follow language that makes the ordinance hard to understand and, therefore, extremely difficult to comply with;
(3) Overly harsh penalties, making it a crime that can result in incarceration for failure to comply with what is an extremely convoluted ordinance enacted as part of a two-year experimental program; and
(4) Reducing access to navigable waters by failing to provide alternatives to the boating public.
The revised draft of the proposed ordinance has not addressed the critical issue of over-reaching by the local jurisdictions which appear intent on prohibiting anchoring or mooring in waters of the state throughout Martin County.
Of the three pilot program areas – part of the St. Lucie River within the City of Stuart and Martin County, part of the Indian River in the Jensen Beach area, and the Manatee Pocket – only one area has an existing operational mooring field (the City of Stuart).
The ordinance does not require an operational mooring field to be available but rather prohibits anchoring and mooring in an area where a mooring field has been issued permits but has not been constructed and is not likely to be constructed before the pilot program ends (since there is widespread public objection to the project and no dedicated funding source).
This allows the County to prohibit anchoring and mooring in an area where there is no alternative for local recreational boaters, fishermen or cruising vessels.
There is no justification for prohibiting anchoring or mooring within 1,000 feet of the western shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon. In local discussions, residents have been unable to determine exactly where the 1,000-foot boundary is. How can boaters traveling through the area figure out where the regulated area is when locals can’t identify the boundaries? This is especially troublesome since there’s no existing mooring field within the pilot program area.
Even the 300-foot boundary set out for the City of Stuart pilot program area and the Manatee Pocket area are excessive and confusing. Since there is no existing mooring field in the Manatee Pocket area, the ordinance requires a mooring permit issued by the Department of Environmental Protection or restricts anchoring and mooring to two defined “anchor areas”.
The proposed ordinance clearly has gone far afield of the intent of the pilot program to promote establishment and use of public mooring fields and promote public access to waters of the state. The ordinance is designed to limit public access, even criminalizing non-compliance, which may have a chilling effect on boaters and even day fishermen who may be caught in the extremely wide net of these proposed regulations.
The proposed ordinance also is counter to the statutory pilot program’s intent in that it appears to apply to live-aboard as well as non-live-aboard vessels. The Legislature established the pilot program “to explore potential options for regulating the anchoring or mooring of non-live-aboard vessels outside the marked boundaries of public mooring fields.” Section 327.4105, F.S. The law provides that “a county or municipality selected for participation in the pilot program may regulate by ordinance the anchoring of vessels, other than live-aboard vessels . . . outside of a mooring field.”
The Stuart/Martin County proposal appears to apply to live-aboards, using the pilot program as a means of prohibiting live-aboard vessels throughout the pilot program areas. The proposed ordinance does not meet the intent of the pilot program to regulate anchoring or mooring of non-live-aboard vessels.
The proposed ordinance is convoluted, establishing different regulations for the three separate pilot program areas, and extremely difficult to understand. The revised version of the proposed ordinance has not addressed concerns that were previously raised, such as providing criminal penalties in an experimental, short-lived ordinance that is clearly going to be subject to revision if the pilot program is renewed. A pilot program is, by definition, a “test program” that should not include criminal penalties at this early stage when those who must comply with it are still trying to figure out the rules.
Some of the regulations set out in the ordinance appear to conflict with the mooring field operational plan that was previously adopted by Martin County and repeals anchoring restrictions within the Manatee Pocket which have been in place nearly 40 years.
While the City of Stuart qualified for inclusion in the pilot program by virtue of its operating mooring field, Martin County should not have been included in the program and has not made allowances for its failure to provide viable alternatives to recreational, sports, and cruising boaters and to avoid severe limitations on access to public waterways by drafting a proposed ordinance which contains ambiguous language and overly broad definitions and lacks any foundation in research or studies to support arbitrary distance restrictions.
The FFWCC should reject the Stuart/Martin County proposed ordinance as drafted.
Virginia P. Sherlock
LITTMAN, SHERLOCK & HEIMS, P.A.

Just received the public comment from Virginia Sherlock on behalf of those she is representing in Jensen Beach (see below). I agree wholeheartedly with her objections. Please consider this correspondence on behalf of all the members of Mariners Barr as being in agreement with her stance that the Stuart/Martin County proposal should be rejected. We here at Mariners Barr feel that Stuart/Martin County’s proposed ordinance is so blatantly uncooperative as far as meeting the objectives of the Pilot Program, that they should be removed as a participant from the Program altogether.
As we all are fully aware, there are many many problems with the ordinance as it is written. Stuart/Martin County is well aware also. We have gone through this process so many times without any real effort on the part of Stuart/Martin County to address those problems, I feel strongly they are wasting our time and yours.
The bottom line is that Stuart/Martin County has made no real effort to participate. They have made no real effort to address the issues the public and your Office has raised during this entire process. Their persistence in demanding excessive setbacks that have no basis for benefiting the public appear to be tailored for the purposes of prohibiting public access rather than promoting it. Their zeal for criminal penalties is quite disturbing. So much so that there is not a doubt in my mind that if given the opportunity, Stuart/Martin County would enact harsher penalties as soon as it is legal to do so (or even if not quite legal). Their disdain for boaters and cruisers is apparent. It is our stand that, given their history, Stuart/Martin County would more than likely overreach in the enforcement of any ordinances enacted and use them to harass and discriminate against the very public for which the Pilot Program has stated it would promote access.
Removing Stuart/Martin County from further participation in Florida’s Anchoring & Mooring Pilot Program is the right thing to do.
Respectfully submitted,
Charmaine Smith Ladd
Executive Director, Mariners Barr

when the municipalities and Cities realize where the power lies..watch out !! specially the last sentance
U.S. Law 33 USC 471 Chap 10
“The Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized, empowered, and directed to define and establish anchorage grounds for vessel in all harbors, rivers, bays and other navigable waters of the United States whenever it is manifest to the said secretary that the maritime or commercial interest of the United States require such anchorage grounds for the safe navigation….” {(personal comment) when the language “authorized, empowered, and directed” is used it implies sole authority to perform the named act. The Boating Public is a definite minority and it is only by the laws which exist in this country can navigational rights be preserved.}
Let them have their way, then sue the ******** and do not settle, money talks,,bs walks ..
Dennis Mcmurtry

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