Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sittin on the Dock of the Bay

View from South Treasure Drive. Click to Enlarge

At the last city commission meeting, Dick Mangham of So. Treasure Drive presented a petition to the commissioners expressing concern about an ordinance that would allow 75 foot docks and perpendicular docking of boats. The petition was signed by 23 people who live on the Treasure Island waterfront.

At the first reading, the ordinance which would allow the changes was passed, meaning that at the next commission meeting, the ordinance will be read and voted on a second time.

I may be unfairly summarizing the concern that the petition signers are expressing as I know nothing about docks but there seem to be two:

  • Extending the docks out to 75 feet is not a DERM requirement and will have the effect of blocking the views of the bay that waterfront houses currently enjoy.
  • 75 foot docks are inherently unsafe in major storms.

As I mentioned, I have little knowledge of docks but I do know something about how municipal government works. A petition, no matter how well intentioned, has very little effect. The petition is easy to sign and forget.

What matters is participation and in this case, I have recommended that Mr. Mangham request meetings with each of the commission members and explain the concerns about the new ordinance.

More importantly, people who believe they will be impacted by this new ordinance have to show up at the commission meetings. This may seem unreasonable at first, after all people are elected to do this and the petitions have been presented, but by design, North Bay Village does not employ professional legislators.

The commission members are working people from the community with varying experiences and varying levels of knowledge. The city staff are the paid administrators and provide their knowledge and research to the commission but that only represents one dimension of the process.

In this case, as I understand it, the new ordinance was drafted in order to meet the needs of changing regulations and de facto docking procedures. Legally, it's a fit.

The other, less tangible issues, the effect on aesthetics, concerns about extraordinary circumstances like storms, practical safety regulations, are political judgments and the commissioners should not have make these in a vacuum. These are ordinary citizens on our commission and they depend on the community for information about what the community wants.

Let's look at the effect on So. Treasure Drive alone. A few years ago, the average property value for the land alone was $1 million. Now if we accept the Miami-Dade Property Appraisers estimate that our values declined at a rate of 26%, that puts the value at about $740,000 per lot in general terms. If the new docking ordinance has the net effect of lowering the property values by 2%, that's a loss of $14,800 per house.

I don't know how much the average hourly wage is on South Treasure Drive, but I can guess that it's not $5,000 per hour. So if every resident who was affected by this showed up at the commission meeting and stayed three hours, they are in effect making $5,000 per hour. That's not a bad return.

I hope that the owners who signed the petitions will take a little bit of time to contact the commissioners, all of them including the mayor, to let them know how they feel about the issue and make recommendations. And show up at the meeting on February 22.

Update on the February 22 Commission Meeting - I received an email yesterday pointing out that the commission meeting notice is on the web page at www.nbvillage.com. Go to Calendar, then choose City Meetings. But do not go to the school at 7540 E. Treasure Drive. Go to the Commission Chambers at the Lexi instead.

Kevin Vericker
February 8, 2011

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