Pasco may lift exclusion on dock roofs on freshwater lakes

When Joe Steffens gazes from his backyard out onto Bell Lake, he can easily view the private  lake’s water — and his neighbor’s boat docks, complete with roofs — that he built himself.

But, his dock doesn’t have a roof.

And, even if he wanted to put one on, he wouldn’t be allowed to under current Pasco County regulations.

Joe Steffens, of Land O’ Lakes, stands in his backyard, overlooking Bell Lake. He’s been working to persuade the Pasco County Commission to change an ordinance to lift an exclusion over dock roofs on freshwater lakes. He said they’re a way of life in Central Pasco. (B.C. Manion)

Steffens, who is a marine contractor, has been pushing for a change — and has been discussing the issue with individual commissioners for the better part of a year to try to make that happen.

He appeared at the Pasco County Commission’s Feb. 5, to reiterate the request.

He told commissioners: “Everybody has a boathouse on all the freshwater lakes to protect their investments.”

When people buy lakefront property, he said, they see the other docks with roofs on the lake and expect to be able to get one.

Sandy Graves, of Land O’ Lakes, agrees with Steffens.

She told commissioners: “I’m a native Laker and this has never been an issue in Land O’ Lakes. I’m a member of a lake association of the second-largest private lake in Pasco County, and it’s never been an issue for us. These roofs are part of our scene, and they’re a beauty of it.

“These are freshwater lakes. They’re private lakes,” she said.

Denise Brand, of Ukulele Brand’s restaurant in Land O’ Lakes, said she and her husband also support the request to amend the county’s ordinance.

“Currently we have seating on a dock that goes out on a lake,” she said. “We would like to make changes to the dock, but we are afraid that we would not be able to put a roof over a new dock. “Currently our dock has three steps down, so it’s difficult for elderly people and people with disabilities to access the dock seating area.

“We did not realize until recently that if the existing dock was to be renovated that we might not be able to put a roof over the new one, and we would like for you to consider roofs being allowed on docks,” she said.

Commissioners now appear ready to make the change happen.

They instructed County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder to proceed with changes to the ordinance that would allow the dock roofs over man-made and freshwater private lakes.

This is a look at Bell Lake, which has some docks that have roofs.

Commissioner Mike Moore spoke in favor of the change.

“They’re right. It’s a quality of life issue,” he said, adding that he also would love to see the restaurant be able to renovate its dock.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey weighed in, as well.

“I’m totally in support for the people on the lakes have their (dock) roofs,” she said.

However, she continues to oppose roofs over docks on canals.

“I travel through a lot jurisdictions in the intracoastal and the vast majority do not allow any kind of coverage,” she said.

Steinsnyder said the prohibition of roof docks would remain in the ordinance, except for the lake issue that was raised in the Central part of the county.

The attorney also addressed two other changes that would be made to the ordinance.

One change would require property owners to maintain their seawalls.

That change “takes the operative language of the Hernando County ordinance” and adds it to the county’s ordinance.

The other change would allow more of a canal to be used for the dock, in the situation of a dead end canal, where there is not a different property owner at the end of the waterway.

The proposed amended ordinance will go through a public hearing before the Planning Commission and two public hearings before the County Commission.

Moore said he’s confident the amended ordinance will be adopted.

Steffens is optimistic.

If the ordinance is adopted, he’ll be able to work closer to home.

“I work in Hillsborough mostly now. I have to, because that’s where the work is,” he said.

But, that’s not the only reason he wants the change.

He wants to restore a way of life in Central Pasco, he said.

“This is just a small sample,” he said, indicating the dock roofs on Bell Lake.

“I mean Lake Padgett and East Lake and Lake Saxton and King Lake and Lake Thomas — all of these lakes — that’s the way it’s been.

“It’s been for generations. For years and years, people have been doing that. It’s just what they expect out here, on these freshwater private lakes,” Steffens said.

Published February 20, 2019

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