Apalachicola votes to oust liveaboards from Battery Park

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The Apalachicola city commission has voted to oust so-called liveaboards from Battery Park marina, as part of a sweeping overhaul of the rules governing the popular boat ramp in downtown Apalachicola.

By a unanimous vote, city commissioners on Jan. 4 approved on second reading an ordinance that requires that “floating structures,” as defined by Florida statute, be removed within 12 months of the passage of the ordinance.

The vote was 4-0 in favor, with Commissioner Donna Duncan absent.

Gulf County resident Dr. Huy Nguyen had asked that his liveaboard be grandfathered in but commissioners showed no interest in making changes to the rules that had long been in the works.

“I’m asking for a sense of fairness and understanding,” he said.

Mayor Brenda Ash asked City Manager Travis Wade whether there could be any leeway with the timing of removal, and he said he saw no room for changes.

“The goal was not to grandfather one and treat it differently than the others,” he said. 

The revised ordinance uses the Florida statutes’ definition of floating structure, which defines it as “a floating entity, with or without accommodations…which is not primarily used as a means of transportation on water but which serves purposes or provides services typically associated with a structure or other improvement to real property.”

The new ordinance also bans any vessels berthed at the mariana from being used for transient rental accommodations. 

The new ordinance tacks on a $75 annual fee for use by charter captains who live in the county, and a $150 fee for those who are out-of-county. 

Apalachicola resident Jim Brown, a former head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s law enforcement division, and chairman of the Battery Park committee, said this fee was instituted after guides requested the Battery Park restroom be operational for their customers.

The city opened the bathrooms, and the committee felt it a good idea to use that fee to pay for the upkeep of the facilities. “The intent of that money was to pay for the cleaning of restrooms,” he said.

Franklin County residents who are not operating commercially have no launch fees, while those from out-of-county are required to pay either a $10 daily fee, or a $150 annual fee, whichever they prefer.

The monthly slip rental fees have a monthly base rate of $100 for vessels registered in Franklin County, and $175 for all others. A surcharge of $5 for every foot over 30-feet is applied. An optional per month charge of $25 is available for utility connection. 

The ordinance also imposes an array of together regulations, Including limiting a person or entity to renting no more than one slip at a time.

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