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Condo owners battle the state's dock-rental fee hike proposal

Jack Pyle stands at the slip where he keeps his sailboat at the Village of Tierra Verde condos. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection wants a 300 percent increase in rental fees for submerged lands from condos with private docks. 

MARTHA RIAL | Times

Jack Pyle stands at the slip where he keeps his sailboat at the Village of Tierra Verde condos. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection wants a 300 percent increase in rental fees for submerged lands from condos with private docks. 

Waterfront condominiums and marinas across the state could face whopping increases in rental fees for boat docks under a new plan by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP is seeking to revise the rate struc­ture for leasing state-owned submerged land to con­dos, marinas and other public-use dock facilities

The biggest increase would be paid by condominiums, apartments complexes, yacht clubs, oversized single family docks and other private facilities. Their fees would triple.

Most single family homeowners pay nothing. Commercial marina fees would decrease slightly.

"These proposals are patently unfair, discriminatory, and outright exorbitant," wrote Jack Pyle of Tierra Verde in a letter mailed this week to more than 500 condominium associations across the state affected by the proposal. "Probably most condos don't know about the new rates.''

Pyle argues that condominiums should be treated like single family homes and not be required to pay the state for docks on submerged land.

His Village of Tierra Verde condominium association pays about $7,000 a year to lease 49,700 square feet of submerged land for a marina. Under the new fees, the annual cost would jump to about $25,000, Pyle said.

Sheron Nichols, owner of Nobles Management of Clearwater, said she learned of the new rates from Pyle's letter. "We received no notification at all from the state," Nichols said. "In fact, I talked to DEP just this week about another issue involving docks and they said absolutely nothing to me about the rates going up."

More than 100 condo complexes in Pinellas face higher fees.

Nichols manages three complexes that collectively have more than 100 boat slips. One condo would pay more than $15,000 next year, a large boost from the current $5,000 fee.

David A. Swinburne, president of the condominium association at the Yacht & Tennis Club of St. Pete Beach, has e-mailed an objection to Gov. Charlie Crist and other state officials.

"For Lord's sake please put a stop to the insane increase," Swinburne wrote. He said an increase would likely raise defaults and foreclosures.

Tom Rodgers, a Tierra Verde condo owner, is worried other owners "may vote to not renew a submerged land lease" if the new lease fees force higher monthly upkeep fees levied on all condo owners, regardless if they use the association's docks.

Most marinas and waterfront condos do not own underwater land past their seawalls. Instead, they lease that land from the state, which owns most of the submerged land in Florida's navigable waters.

The money the state would collect would double, from $3.5-million to $7.3-million.

More than 400 commercial marinas statewide would see a slight decrease in fees, from — $3.1-million to $3.28-million.

Hillsborough County is unaffected because its submerged lands are controlled by the Tampa Port Authority, which is not proposing a fee increase.

The governor and Cabinet manage the state's submerged lands and first discussed changing the fees in June 2007.

The governor and Cabinet plan to review the changes after public comment ends Aug. 23.

Condo owners battle the state's dock-rental fee hike proposal 08/08/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:22pm]
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