More Boating Bans in Florida?

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Teaser: Tampa Bay’s Marine Industry Association fights a Vessel Exclusion Zone ordinance.

By Norm Schultz

Abandoning an action that established a large Vessel Exclusion Zone in a popular boating area on Florida’s west coast is the current target for the Tampa Bay Marine Industry Association.

TBMIA and the area’s boating families scored a major victory this week when the Pinellas County Commissioners agreed to reconsider an ordinance that had been passed the previous week establishing a large no boats zone in an area currently enjoyed by hundreds of boating families.

“The ordinance was passed with little notice or input from the industry or the area’s boaters,” explained Kevin Carlan, TBMIA chairman and president of Mastry Yanmar Engine Center. “When we discovered the action, we moved quickly to make our objections known and joined a petition drive that’s generated more than 7,000 signatures from TBMIA members and boaters.” 

The result has been an initial meeting with the Commission Chair, Pat Gerard, and an agreement to have the commissioners reconsider the ordinance. But the process is just beginning and will include additional time and conversations before a formal reconsideration action can take place.

It’s not a done deal,” cautions Carlan, “but we are pleased there’s agreement to include TBMIA in discussions to develop a new plan that makes the most sense for everyone. It’s clear the Commission is open to other ideas and there were a number of positive points discussed.”

Since the ordinance has already passed, revisions will have to go through a public process to rescind and, then, a new ordinance must be adopted. That will take some time, but the Commission has instructed staff not to take steps to implement the existing ordinance making it unenforceable.

“We give the Commission a great deal of credit for recognizing they moved in haste and without public comment,” Carlan noted. TMBIA is a division of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association.