Pasco lifts ban on dock roofs on freshwater lakes

Debate goes on over allowing dock roofs in coastal communities

A longstanding quest to permit roofs on docks on Pasco County’s inland lakes succeeded last week, when the Pasco County Commission voted unanimously to lift the ban.

It remains, uncertain though, whether that same privilege will be extended to owners of waterfront property in coastal communities. The issue will be coming back for additional discussion at a future board workshop.

A look at Bell Lake that has some docks with roofs, which were a part of life in Central Pasco, until they were banned in the county. Now, they’re allowed again on freshwater lakes. The debate continues over whether roofs should be allowed over docks in coastal communities. (File)

Meanwhile, people such as Joe Steffens, who lives on Bell Lake in Land O’ Lakes, can build a roof over his dock.

Steffens, who is in the marine construction business, also will be able to build them for other lakefront property owners, too. He had been forced to work in Hillsborough County because of Pasco’s ban.

The owners of Ukulele Brand’s restaurant, in Land O’ Lakes, also can proceed if they want to replace their waterfront dock without having to worry about whether they can replace the roof.

County Commissioner Mike Moore made the motion to amend the county ordinance to remove the restriction, seconded by Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.

“I’ve been in office since 2014,” Moore said, noting that’s pretty much how long he’s been working with people in Lutz and Land O’ Lakes who wanted to put roofs on their docks.

“I have not had one person on a lake in that area say they’re against it, so I would obviously like to see this move forward,”  Moore said.  “It doesn’t impede the neighbors’ views at all.”

But, commissioners are split on whether waterfront property owners in coastal communities should be allowed to put roofs over their docks.

Some waterfront property owners asked commissioners to allow them to have roofs over their docks, to protect their boats.

“Most people have a significant investment that is sitting behind them on their waterfront property and they would like to have a dock to protect their vessel,” said Nicholas Mudry, who lives at 5415 JoBeth Drive in Gulf Landings, in New Port Richey. Some vessels cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

Jeromy Gamble, 7309 Islander Lane in Sea Pines in Hudson, said he owns Coastline Boatlift Covers.

“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve sold over $100,000 worth of boatlift covers in Pasco County. I’ve got 78 people who want to order boatlift covers, right now. There’s a massive demand.

“People all over Pasco County on the waterfront — fresh and saltwater — want to be able to protect their investments. As new people move into the waterfront communities — both fresh and salt, they’re investing in their dream of living on the water. Part of that is owning a vessel. “We offer a solution that doesn’t block the neighbors’ views. It has a removable top. It does not impede the boatlift whatsoever. It’s a clamp-on design,” he said.

“There are ways to solve this problem, if looked at properly,” he added.

But, Skip Geiger, director of public relations for the Gulf Harbors Civic Association, urged commissioners to keep the prohibition intact.

“Gulf Harbors prohibits covered docks, covered boatlifts and other covered structures on the water,” he said.

“This ordinance was originally passed to ensure that no hazards to navigation are constructed along the canals, that would interfere with the boaters’ view of the canals and docks, and allow a mix of boats, of all sizes, from kayaks to baby yachts to operate and remain clear of each other,” he said.

He told commissioners he doesn’t object to dock roofs on lakes. But, he went on: “What we do have a problem with is slipping in any sort of covered docks in that area again. It’s a safety hazard, it’s an issue not only for views but for safety of residents, and we do not want it.”

Commissioner Starkey, who lives in Gulf Harbors and is also a boat owner, opposes allowing dock roofs in coastal communities.

“We don’t want a roof. My neighbors don’t want a roof. The majority of folks there don’t want a roof. We don’t want our views to be impeded.

“You can put a cover on your boat.

“I do a lot of boating on the East Coast of Florida. Those are very, very expensive boats and there are no roofs,” she said.

County Commissioner Jack Mariano asked County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder if the county could allow the roofs in some communities, but allow other communities to use deed restrictions to ban them.

Steinsnyder responded: “If you’re going to allow it, you’re going to have to allow it along the entire Gulf front. Your land development regulation needs to treat everybody the same.”

“You can’t carve out neighborhoods that are similar in fashion.”

Ultimately, the board agreed to lift the ban on lakefront properties, and to have a workshop regarding the issue in coastal communities. That workshop is expected in May.

On a related issues, the board approved changes to county regulations that include docks and seawalls in building permit requirements, require maintenances of docks and seawalls; and provides a provision for when the county can make repairs when the condition of the dock or seawall presents a threat to public safety.

Published April 03, 2019

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