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Florida marina expansion opposed because of manatees

Concerned about the manatee population, condo owners in Cocoa Beach, Fla., oppose a marina’s proposed expansion and its plan for boat rentals.

The residents told a local news station that they don't want the city to approve the plan because it could put manatees in danger.

The area is near the Cocoa Beach Causeway, and locals call it "manatee cove.” At any given time daily, dozens and sometimes hundreds of sea cows congregate in the water near the condos, where they find fresh water and mate.

Bonnie Prizgint lives in a condo overlooking the water and is president of one of four condo associations balking at the proposal by Island Time Marina to bring in rentals such as pontoon boats, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. They told Channel 13 News that 800 fellow residents are on their side opposing the expansion.

"I just don't think the people who are going to rent the boats are going to have a course on how to operate that boat," she told the network.

"I don't condemn somebody trying to make some extra money or having a business, but this is not the right spot. You've got hundreds of people saying no, and one guy saying yes," said Ron Knuppel, another condo owner.

James Stadler bought the marina about a year ago and has been fixing it up. He's renovating the property, which has been worn down during the past several years.

"We are redoing the docks, making it nice," Stadler said.

There are 30 boat slips, and his plan is to use three of them for two motorized pontoon boats, as well as paddle boards and kayaks. He wants to rent to families and enforce a strict no-wake zone.

He has requested a special exception to the city code to bring the watercraft in and rent them on an hourly or daily basis. If the expansion comes through, he will be sure renters know how to operate the equipment safely for themselves and wildlife, he said.

"I want to make sure people know what they're doing when they go out on the boat, but you know, they're going to be small boats, small-horsepower motors. It's not like they can take off fast," Stadler said.

As part of his request, Stadler said there will be no rentals of personal watercraft, which can go at high speeds.

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