New Ordinance Bars Commercial Fishing Operations From Residential Area
By TONY MARRERO
Published: January 16, 2008
BROOKSVILLE - The county has a new ordinance that prohibits commercial fishermen from unloading their catch and washing, refueling and repairing their boats while moored to residential property.
The two fishermen whose operations prompted the new rule, however, have already threatened to take the county to court.
The Hernando County Commission approved the ordinance by a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday. Commissioner Dave Russell dissented.
The rule, which applies to commercial boats of 26 feet and longer, is needed to give the county the power to take care of "ongoing problems" with continued commercial activity close to homes in Hernando Beach, Assistant County Attorney Kent Weissinger told the board.
The county already has a zoning regulation prohibiting such activity near residential areas and had given the owners of commercial vessels that were doing so time to move to another dock space, Weissinger said.
All but two did. The county went to court to get those two to comply, but the court ruled that the two fishermen should be grandfathered in under the zoning law.
The county lost again when it appealed the decision.
The new ordinance gives the county policing powers to get the fisherman to comply.
"We came to the conclusion that the best course of action is to provide code enforcement staff with the tools they need to deal with the issue," Weissinger said.
Hernando Beach resident Fred Click told the board that he and more than a dozen of his neighbors have to deal with the predawn racket, stench and pollution produced by a commercial fisherman operating near their homes.
"If you were trying to sell your home, someone's going to ask what's going on across the canal," said Click, who lives on Paradise Circle. "We don't have anything against commercial fishermen, it just shouldn't be going on in a residential area."
John Loy is one of the two fishermen who won the grandfather status in court. He told the board Tuesday that he has kept his boat behind his home since 1981 and that the county's campaign against him is simply "harassment."
"If you think I won't go ahead and spend money on a lawyer and not take this where this should go, you should think differently," Loy said.
County Attorney Garth Coller said there is video that shows clearly commercial activity on Loy's property, such as tanker trucks delivering fuel.
"We believe this law will be upheld and protect the residential neighborhood," Coller said. "He will get to moor his boat there, but he will not get to run a commercial fishing business on his property."
Tommy Evans is the other grandfathered fisherman. He keeps his 39-foot boat in a canal across from Fred Click.
Evans said he, too, is being harassed by the county and that he would fight along with Loy.
"I feel I'm doing nothing wrong," Evans said. "If I have I to, I will bring a lawsuit like him."
Commissioner Jeff Stabins asked the Hernando Port Authority to weigh in on the issue.
The authority had given Weissinger direction to take action, Capt. John Saittis, a member of the authority, told the board. Saittis said the authority was especially concerned about fuel storage in a residential area.
Stabins asked Saittis if he would vote for the ordinance.
"I know Tom (Evans), I know (Loy), and I know most of the fishermen in town," Saittis said. He paused, sighed, and continued: "Yes, I would."
In dissenting, Russell said that "marshalling police powers sends shivers up my spine, particularly when it appears we're trying to circumvent in some way a court decision that came down on the side of some people."
"At the risk of firing some other people up," Russell said, "I just don't think that's right."
Reporter Tony Marrero can be reached at 352-544-5286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
.Sounds like to me, goverment wants to destroy commercial fishermens ways of life all around. I am not familiar with the Brooksville area that well. But if I go by comparison of my area, those folks have been doing this for ages.........I guess this is the impact of new neighbors not so keen or understanding of those livelyhoods......IMHO