Longboat looks to ban boat trailers in front yards

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In an meeting that pitted a “please leave our way of life alone in the Village” argument against “we need to clean up the pervasive mess of trailers in front yards,” the clean up the mess ordinance won out and the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board voted in approval of a new law that mandates trailers must be stored in side yards or backyards.

Currently, dozens of trailers are parked in various configurations in sundry lots and front yards in the historic Longbeach Village, and Village Association President Michael Drake argued that the Village is “a little bit different” and that the Commission created overlay district recognizes that fact.

Some Villagers told the Planning and Zoning Board that South-island Country Club Shores residents should seek to reinstate elapsed covenants and deed restrictions rather than push for a Town-wide law.

Longboat is an anomaly in the sense that the City of Sarasota, Sarasota County and Manatee County all have restrictive rules not allowing boat trailer storage in front yards.

Steve Gold, who lives on Bayview Point, said it was unrealistic for the Village to try and self-regulate its boat storage in front yards and that the ordinance was simply an effort “to enhance property values” and that the rules, which also apply to POD storage units and RVs, are in the best interest of the Key.

Village resident and former town Commissioner Gene Jaleski said that he did not believe the Town could legally “claw back people’s rights.”

“People have been parking trailers in front yards for years,” Jaleski added.

Next, Planning and Zoning Board member George Symanski asked the Planning and Zoning staff if it is legal for a boat owner to store a boat in someone else’s yard.

Planning and Zoning Director Robin Meyer said, “We will have to look into that one.”

Town Planner Steve Shield opined, “Yes.”

Planning Board member Jack Daly asked Town Attorney Maggie Mooney Portale if the Town can enact such a new law and Portale relied yes that it is legal to adopt the ordinance.

Portale explained that Florida, being a Home-Rule State, allows the Town to enact laws so far as the legislature or a superior body has not specifically regulated or forbid the measure. In essence: in the absence of law, the Town can regulate.

Board member Len Garner weighed in: “We are talking about increasing aesthetics and property values; not to have an ordinance would be counter productive.”

Symanski said if the Town were to merely start relying on homeowner’s covenants, “We could get rid of zoning.”

Planning and Zoning Board Member Kenneth Schneier joked, “Why not use front yards for off-street Mar Vista parking?”

Schneier asked Portale if it is even legal to exclude the Village from the ordinance.

Portale responded that he had concerns with excluding portions of the Key from a regulation. “There could be an issue, ” she added.

“It could clearly make it less defensible,” said Symanski. “It would help the (Sarasota Attorney) Michael Furen retirement annuity.” He added.

“Is Furen in the DROP program?” another joked.

The board all voted in favor of recommending the ordinance to the Town Commission with the exception of member Daly, who voted in opposition.

The ordinance states that those with corner lots can’t park their boats and trailers on side yards that also have access to the street.
Boats and trailers parked in side yards must also be screened so they are not as visible from the road.

The commission will now review the recommendation at an upcoming workshop. Ultimately, the commission will decide whether to approve the changes.

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