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City seeks to increase use of marina by transient boaters

STORY BY SAMANTHA ROHLFING BAITA (Week of February 25, 2021)

Now that the City Council has green-lighted the first segment of the Vero Beach Municipal Marina’s multimillion-dollar renovation, it has begun to discuss issues relating to the growing number of boats anchoring in off-marina waters.

According to City Manager Monte Falls and Marina Director Sean Collins, “an estimated 20 boats” are anchoring in non-marina waters at any given time, a number which “has probably doubled in the last two years.”

Although it is legal for boats to moor in the non-channel waters of the lagoon, it is unlawful for them to land their dinghies on city-owned shorelines, which some do on a regular basis, tying up in the Fingers canals, at Memorial Island, Riverside Park and other locations.

Boaters outside the marina come to shore in dinghies to shop, sightsee and do other activities.

Collins had previously noted a significant drop in the normal number of “regulars” – boaters who return year after year – occupying the marina’s mooring buoy field.

Transient mooring rental, which includes use of marina facilities, is $20 a day, with harbormaster approval required after five days.

If those “estimated 20 boats” moored at the marina for a week instead, it would bolster marina income by $2,800, but Falls says it can’t be assumed the marina is losing that much in revenue due to the outside boats.

“‘Lost revenue’ would assume the boats moored outside the marina were previous customers and we do not have that information,” he said.

Rather than a clear-cut case of lost revenue, said Falls, “the problems we see are no oversight of waste pump-outs, and boats landing their dinghies in areas where that is not allowed.”

Falls said the Vero Beach Police Department is aware of citizens’ concerns and of the existing regulations, and that they are monitoring the Fingers as well as Veterans Memorial Island and Riverside Park, where illegal dingy landing is occurring.

“We’re currently actively enforcing Section 46-35 of the City Code, which says that no vessel may launch from or land on any City property, except the City Marina or other areas designated for boating,” Falls stated

Falls is considering amending current marina rates by adding a daily dockage fee, providing boaters a place to come ashore, “and not do it illegally.”

In addition to the fee, the proposed resolution would require proof that the vessel has been pumped out within the last seven days.

Falls said there already is “a dinghy dock they can use, because there is an immediate need,” but Vice-Mayor Rey Neville suggested putting “more dinghy parking space” into the marina plans going forward, an idea Falls plans to discuss with Council down the road.

Falls reasoned that if the city plans to continue enforcing laws against landing on city property, “we’re going to have to make some kind of accommodation for those vessels.”

Part of that strategy going forward, in his opinion, will be to encourage those boaters to dock at the marina as full-fledged customers.