A segment of a popular boating destination on the northern tip of Longboat Key will likely be off limits to boaters, but not swimmers, by July 4 weekend after a final vote Monday by the city commission.
Commissioners gave final approval at a special meeting to bathing beach designations for two stretches of beach on the east-facing part of Greer Island, designed to block access to motorboats that usually anchor or run aground there on weekends.
The 6-0 vote, in the absence of Commissioner Mike Haycock, means that motorboats will be banned from a 50-foot by 180-foot rectangle that begins about 50 feet north of the dock extending from the property to the 7300 Gulf of Mexico Drive, owned by real estate company CEO Michael Saunders. A second 50-foot-wide area extends 140 feet east on the gulf side of the Longboat Pass bridge.
In addition, a banana-shaped area connecting the two bathing beach areas will be enforced to ensure that no vessel anchors or runs aground in the narrow stretch between the quay and the sand, using existing regulations that prohibit anchored vessels from blocking navigation.
Buoys and signs will be added by the city in these areas, and police will enforce the regulations, with initial fines of $250 and subsequent fines of $500 for repeat offences. State wildlife officers could also help city police enforce the law, City Manager Tom Harmer said.
Motorboat access to the rest of the beach across the Longboat Pass bridge will not be affected.
No residents spoke in favor or against the measure.
“The ability of staff, attorneys and everyone to step in to get this thing together before July 4 has been heroic,” Mayor Ken Schneier said. “It’s been a great job. I think it’s a great order – hopefully it works. And being able to get the buoys and the signage ready and all of that on a very tight deadline has been really, really, really spectacular.”
Following emergency dredging in early 2021 to push the waterline north from the wharf, the wraparound beach that forms Greer Island has reformed and sand has again encroached on the wharf of Land’s End, placing boaters near and on private property and closing the Greer Island lagoon off the tidal flow. Although emergency action to reopen the link to the lagoon to ensure tidal flushing for water quality and wildlife access is planned for this month, a larger project to moving sand near the wharf will likely not be removed until late 2022.
As the sand spit grew, northern landowners complained about noise and poor boater behavior, which led the commission to consider considering action, but initially found it difficult from solving the problem until landing on the swimming beach idea, which was considered by state wildlife officials without objection.
Municipal commissioners initially approved the measure on June 6, then scheduled a special out-of-sequence meeting on Monday for a final vote to allow enough time to set up information boards and markers and get the word out by the weekend holiday.
This is not the first time Longboat executives have acted quickly on an issue that affects northern residents and boaters. In 2021, the commissioners passed an emergency noise ordinance on the Friday before the holiday, setting civil fines and allowing police to enforce its provisions. In this case, a single vote set up the emergency rules with a two-thirds majority. It went 6-0.
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