Victory Against Sarasota’s 500 Foot Anchoring Regulation
We are going to start this posting with GOOD NEWS! As you will see below, the Sarasota city attorney has recommended against prosecuting Captain William (Pete) Shaw. He was ticketed for anchoring within 500 feet of private property. To my own unlawlerly mind, and many others, this local Sarasota ordinance is in clear violation of the new Florida anchoring law. In spite of the Sarasota City Attorney’s careful language (see below), I think he’s saying the city would have lost if this case had gone to court.
This is a small, but important victory for the cruising community in regards to Florida anchoring rights. While some may have preferred that the case went forward, very likely resulting in a favorable ruling for Captain Pete, the abandonment of pursuing this matter by the City Attorney, has to send some sort of message to other municipalities in Florida.
I AM STILL WORKING ON A MAJOR ARTICLE/EDITORIAL ABOUT WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE NEW FLORIDA ANCHORING LAW VERSUS LOCAL REGULATONS. I hope to present this new story next week. In the meantime, let’s all rejoice that it’s now just a bit safer to drop the hook in Sarasota waters. THREE CHEERS FOR CAPTAIN PETE!!!!
As was said above, the first sequence of notes you will read below define the abandonment of the case against Captain Peter. Farther dowin this ever lengthening string, you will discover older messages that define what happened in the first place.
Recent emails from the Sarasota City Attorney are below. The short story is that he is not going to prosecute the recently cited boater and may suspend enforcement for 30-45 days while he does more research. So I will again be pursuing the option of the city council rescinding their rule (as opposed to having it done in court) and will be meeting with the city attorney and council members later next week. My proposal will be to replace the 500 foot rule with a collection of general nuisance ordinances to quell the concerns of waterfront property owners.
Helping to get to this point was an admiralty attorney, Joanne M. Foster from Guy Yudin & Foster in Stuart, who threatened a federal civil rights suit. They are the same firm that sued Stuart in the Vincent Sibilla anchoring case last year. Also, the phone call the city attorney received from the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association attorney, most likely prompted from the postings on Cruiser’s Net, was influential in swaying the city attorney’s position.
Thanks for your email and the constructive input/suggestions. I didn’t know if you had seen email correspondence below or not. If we suspend enforcement, which I’m prepared to recommend at this point, then I think everything is on the table. So even though I’m not recommending repeal at present, I consider the repeal or modification to be possible alternatives. I would like to meet with you and hear about your suggestions. It will have to be after Monday though. I will follow up with you by early next week at the latest with some possible times.
Robert M. Fournier
City of Sarasota
Commissioners, I am forwarding an email I sent to Chief Abbott today advising that I have decided to decline to prosecute Mr. Shaw for anchoring his vessel within 500 ft. of property used and zoned for residential purposes. Mr. Shaw was anchored for 3 days at 343 ft. from the shore line. I am planning to bring this up on Monday under remarks of Charter officials. You may recall that I discussed this ordinance and the so called 500 ft. rule in a memorandum that was transmitted to you via email dated January 13, 2010. I am still not prepared to recommend repeal of Sec. 10-52, but due to the high probability that the continued validity of the ordinance will be litigated at some point, I want to be certain that the City is in the best possible position before that happens.
Robert M. Fournier
City of Sarasota
I would like to thank everybody who helped get me through this situation. The support and kind comments, advise and hard work done by many people has this possible. Thanks especially to Jeff Bole, Ken Delacy and my attorney Joanne Foster. Also the NMMA,the Cruisers Net, and the Sarasota Herald Tribune. After paying the bills and working for a short spell to replenish the cruising fund, I will be headed toward the Bahamas after all! If we stay organized, the cities and counties won’t stand a chance if they choose to ignore the new anchoring rules the state has put into effect. (be aware that the city of Miami owns some submerged lands and they call the shots there) I hope to see some of you in paradise, if you see my catamaran, Mahina, come on over and we’ll chat, maybe have a beer or six.
TODAYS JOKE IN THE “BACK CHANNEL”
Question- Why do Lions do what they do?
Answer- Because they can!
Question-Why is the Citys’ Attorney trying to do what he’s trying to do?
Answer?- Because he can’t? Maybe he just thinks he’s a Lion? A real Lion would know the difference between service anchors and moorings!
Older message below were authored and posted here on the Cruisers’ Net PRIOR TO the abandonment of the charges against Captain Pete.
Subject: Sarasota Anchoring Ordinance Versus FL State Law
Cruising News: For the last six months, I have been working with the city government of Sarasota, FL to try to get their 500 foot rule repealed. This city ordinance prohibits anchoring within 500 feet of a residence for more than twelve hours, which appears to be in violation of Florida Statute 327.60’s prohibition of local anchoring regulations as referenced in the BoatU.S. information sheet titled `Anchoring Information for Florida Cruisers’.
I have opinions from an FWC attorney who indicates that Special Act 86-458 (the act that gave Sarasota the loophole to initially enact their law) is now obsolete since the special act simply defines a term that is no longer in the state statute that it references (327.60) and from Donald Day, the attorney that won the Marco Island v. Dumas case, who thinks that Sarasota\’s anchoring rule would not stand up in court.
However, the Sarasota city attorney is holding firm in his stance that the Special Act is still valid and that Sarasota\’s ordinance does not defy state law. Without convincing him to change his opinion or a strong legal argument to counter his, I can not acquire enough votes from the city council to overturn their anchoring restriction.
A January 12th memorandum from the city attorney to the city commissioners addressed the 500 foot rule. He thinks that, regardless of the actual language used, the intended effect of the special act still stands and that the 2009 general rule does not supersede the 1986 special rule since the general rule does not explicitly state that it does. My counter that, `As a participant in the drafting process of HB 1423, I know that the intended effect of the revision to 327.60 was to standardize anchoring regulations statewide by prohibiting local ordinances,’ does not convince the city commission to vote against the opinion of their attorney.
As cruising sailors are currently being cited for violation of Sarasota’s anchoring ordinance, I would appreciate any help that anyone may offer in
countering the city attorney’s argument so that we can get this law off of the books as soon as possible.
Subject: Fla anchoring citation
Cruising News: On jan. 10 I was issued a “complaint” form the Sarasota marine police for violation of city ordinance 10-52, for anchoring within 500 feet of a waterfront property. I called the telephone # printed on the back of the complaint and was promptly connected to the “Yuppy Puppy” pet salon. After calling around a bit, trying to find the penalty for this , I was connected to the clerk of court, who had no information as to the penalty involved. I intend to challenge the ordinance in court, as it should have been eliminated by the new anchoring law passed by Fla. and in effect since Oct 1, 2009. Iwas staying in the Plymouth Harbor anchorage near lido key and was 352 ft. away from the nearest home. I could use any legal advise or other assistance anyone could give me to overturn this ordinance. My court date is feb 1, which puts a cruise to the Bahamas I was planning on hold until this is cleared up. Anyone who wants to contact me can e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org thanks.
I believe that in the [SSECN] archives there is history of a similar case in Stuart a year or so ago, the defendants pro bono lawyer won an out of court settlement based on the facts that the ordinance enforcement violated the defendants civil rights, I believe the City had to pay up. Worth researching.
Have either of you contacted the State Attorney’s Office yet? This would be the first place I would go, and request an opinion from him.
I was thinking about this today as I cruised south towards ground zero ‘“ Ft. Lauderdale ‘“ and thought ‘“ we’ve had love-ins, sleep-ins, laugh-ins and sit-ins. Maybe it’s about time we all got together in one location, like Ft. Lauderdale, and had an anchor-in ‘“ and fought for our rights as a group, together by demanding the FL police issue each and every one of us a ticket.
The publicity alone, which would be national, would cause the municipalities to rethink what they are doing and force the state to act to enforce its own laws.
Sarasota is an extremely desirable place. Look at marina jacks, it gets crazy with 100’s of boats’¦ but i would think they have every right to be there.
Name not provided
Assuming one day soon Sarasota’s 500′ rule is found to be in violation with the new State anchoring laws and done away with how may this effect the proposed mooring field? This may seem like a big assumption, but one FWC attorney and the prevailing attorney in the Marco Isl. case have both stated Sarasota’s 500′ rule is currently unenforceable. Well one could guess that if a mooring field is installed in the protected waters of the current harbor those not wishing to patronize it will seek protected waters elsewhere. That could very likely lead to many boats moving back to the Otter Key / Plymouth Harbor area which is what caused Sarasota to seek the 500′ rule back in the 1980’s. I would suggest the City abandon the proposed MF if they do not want this to happen once their 500’ rule is dissolved.
That makes a lot of sense, which is probably why it won’t happen. In case anyone in this group hasn’t heard yet, I’m the guy who got the ticket and I believe I have a good chance of overturning the ordinance. The reason I anchor on the west side of the bay is the calmer water and the fact that the city have placed so many parking restrictions at Island park, I actually have more available parking over on lido key! Why don’t they just make Island Park the easiest place for boaters to anchor and land their dinghies (no fees) and then everybody will anchor there.