MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. - A Pinellas County community is cracking down on boat owners living on their vessels, saying the dozens of anchored boats pose a threat to public health and safety. A proposed ordinance in Madeira Beach would restrict how long those liveaboard boats can stay parked on the water.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Marine Unit said there are about 30 boats anchored in the Intracoastal Waterway in Madeira Beach and most of them have people living onboard.
Mark Green lives part-time on his boat and loves being on the water.
"It's like living on a beachfront house, you know, your view's better and if you move, it changes every day," he said.
Green said he is on a fixed income, and so are many others who call their vessels home, therefore, their options are limited.
"I would say 80-90% of the people here, that’s where they live, that’s what they consider their home," Green said.
For nearby neighbors living on the land, that is the issue.
Dozens of residents have complained to the city about the liveaboard boats, saying they want to see more modesty and less trash.
"People are not pumping out properly and human waste is being dumped into the waters, which, of course, has an adverse impact on the environment," said Curt Preisser with the city of Madeira Beach.
An ordinance now on the table would ban the boats unless they get a permit. Owners would be required to pay $5, which would allow them to anchor in city waters for 72 hours. The vessels must be 200-feet from private docks and pump-out at the city marina.
After three days, boaters would face fines if they do not move and would be placed on a 30-day hold to get another permit.
"We certainly don’t want to be discriminating against any boaters, but we do need to put in place,” said Preisser. “The city feels we do need to put in place some type of rules and regulations and that’s where this ordinance is coming from."
Green said many of the liveaboard boaters are now scrambling, trying to figure out their options if they are uprooted.
"My boat runs and I can move and all that stuff, but there's a lot of people out here that their boats don’t run real well, it’s gonna be horrible,” Green said. “I don’t know what they’re gonna do."
Commissioners are set to vote on the ordinance after a public hearing at the board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8. If the proposal passes, officials say they will start with an information campaign to educate boaters about the changes before enforcing the new rules.