County Cracking Down On Bootleg Marinas

September 30, 1992|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

Before Robert Scott, a boating enthusiast and fisherman, bought his shore home overlooking pristine Brown's Cove, he docked his boat at a friend's pier.

After obtaining his own pier, he repaid the hospitality by offering berths to five of his friends.

That arrangement may be coming to an end.

On Thursday, the County Planning Board is expected to approve an amendment to the county zoning regulations that will make Mr. Scott's private marina, small that it is, illegal.

County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, introduced a resolution asking the board to make recommendations to deal with what he, residents of the Lower Back River Neck Peninsula and county planning officials term bootleg marinas. In some cases, 15 to 20 boats are berthed at these marinas.

The resolution limits residential waterfront lot owners to having berths at their piers for four boats of 16 feet or more. Pier owners would have six months after passage of the bill to comply.

Private marina owners can apply for the newly created Business Maritime Marina zoning classification as a commercial marina, but will come under the zoning and environmental regulations for commercial marinas. The county has 71 commercial marinas.

County planning officials said it is almost impossible to determine the number of bootleg marinas without a thorough survey of the county's 173-mile shoreline.

Donna and Wayne Berk are two of the people whose complaints brought about Mr. Gardina's action. Shortly after they bought their waterfront home on Sue Creek 2 1/2 years ago, their next-door neighbor started extending his pier and adding berths, they said. The pier now holds up to 15 boats. On some days, said Mrs. Berk, the pier is so crowded that she and her husband can't turn around their 16-foot skiff to get from their pier to the main channel on Sue Creek.

"The owner has signs on the end of his pier advertising berths," said Mrs. Berk.

William H. Wilson, the owner of the private marina next door to Mrs. Berk, could not be reached for comment. However, in a November 1991 article in The Sun, he was quoted as saying that he "would probably just pull out the pilings" if the county cracked down on bootleg marinas.

In that article, Mr. Wilson also said that he was depending on word-of-mouth advertising to lease 15 slips and that he didn't consider the operation a full-fledged business.

"It started out friends and then friends of friends," he said. "I do try to keep a good relationship with my neighbors."

County zoning regulations don't cover private marinas such as Mr. Wilson's. Unlike commercial marinas which are regulated, private marinas don't have to provide off-street parking, are not equipped with proper fuel facilities and don't provide devices to pump human waste from the boats.

Private marinas are becoming increasingly attractive to boaters because they are cheaper than commercial marina prices, which charge between $900 and $2,500 a year for a boat slip. Slips at private, unregulated marinas cost on average $650 a year.

Anne Arundel County's zoning regulations limit the number of boat slips at private piers to four, while Queen Anne's County puts the limit at two but allows two more through a special exception to its zoning regulations.

Mr. Scott of Brown's Cove is not happy about the potential zoning change. Not only would he have to deny at least one friend a boat slip, but he no longer could decide what to do with his property.

"I pay county taxes on my shorefront home and it's considerable," said Mr. Scott. "If I want to offer friends a place to moor their boat on my property, why should the county have a say in that?"

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