Residential parking of boats remains a no in Port Richey

PORT RICHEY — The parking and storage of boats and related equipment in driveways and front yards remain prohibited for city residents.

The Port Richey City Council discussed the issue its regular meeting Feb. 23. It and all other agenda items failed to be addressed Feb. 9 when the council canceled its meeting due to the lack of quorum.

Council member Jennie Sorrell requested the discussion topic after receiving an email from a resident who wanted to see a change to the city code. No formal vote was required for this item.

“This issue comes up every couple of years” Sorrell said. “We get new people that move into the area and they don’t realize we have an ordinance against parking boats in the yard. Then they get a violation and they get upset and we hear about it here on City Council.”

After hearing from staff, the council and two residents who spoke during public comment, the idea of altering language within the code gained little traction.

Current code reads that: “No boats, watercraft, trailers, or major recreation equipment shall be permitted to be parked or stored in any residential driveway or yard forward of a dwelling, or on any vacant lot zoned for residential use. Boats, watercraft, trailers, or major recreation equipment may be parked or stored on the side or rear yard of residential property; provided, however, that the parking or storage of boats or watercraft, trailers, or major recreation equipment shall be no closer to a street or road than the front of a dwelling.”

Another subsection related to the “parking and storage of boats, watercraft, trailers and major recreation equipment within a residential district” states that these items “may be parked anywhere on residential premises, for a period not to exceed 24 hours, during loading or unloading.”

“City staff has been pretty clear that we’re comfortable with the code as it is,” City Manager John Dudte said. “It’s understandable, it’s enforceable, but, if it’s of interest to you as a council, that’s for you to wrestle with and direct us.”

In agreeing with Dudte and the consensus of the board, council member Tom Kinsella said one thing he’d like to see changed is the city ramping up enforcement of code violators.

“We currently have something in place, and I’m not being critical, but what we have in place is not being enforced as it is,” Kinsella said. “Just driving the one mile down Bay Boulevard, there were 10 violations that I saw, according to this.”

Kinsella added that an idea to modify the code in such a way to allow certain vessels or equipment to be parked and stored in front of homes, but not others, could lead to confusion and more problems. “I think moving in that direction, making changes, we could be opening up a can of worms.”

Dave Mueller, a Port Richey resident and active participant in municipal affairs, suggested a permitting process to allow homeowners to park boats, campers, and recreational equipment in driveways or yards could be a potential revenue source for the city. The idea piqued council member Todd Maklary’s interest, potentially administering a monthly fee, though fellow board members were not on board.

“We’re a small city, so the administration of that type of thing, I think, is more difficult than if you’re the city of Tampa,” Mayor Scott Tremblay said, “because I don’t think the revenue would outweigh any kind of benefit we would get from that.”

Loosening the reins on this topic could adversely affect the aesthetics of neighborhoods, Sorrell and Tremblay mentioned.

“I’m perfectly OK with the way that we have it written, because that way it doesn’t discriminate against trailers and campers and things like that,” Sorrell said. “And to tell you the truth I just don’t think it would make our city look all that good.”

Added Tremblay, “As we have fought blight, we’ve expended resources to fight blight, I think we’ve moved in the right direction. I don’t think there’s any dollar amount that could come into the city that would change at least my humble opinion on parking stuff out in front of the house.”

As for new residents not being familiar with the city’s rules and regulations, Tremblay said that’s on individuals to familiarize themselves with their surroundings.

“It’s my thought it’s their obligation moving to a boating community to figure out where they can store their boat, whether it’s on a canal, on a lift, on the side of a house,” the mayor said. “Those are things that the homeowner should sort out before they move or purchase a boat.”