ST. PETE BEACH — Before slow-speed regulations in Blind Pass can be extended, residents on both sides of the channel must prove the need to two city commissions.
The problem is the near impossibility of enforcing differing rules in the narrow channel dividing St. Pete Beach from Treasure Island. The two island cities currently have the same boating slow-speed and no-wake rules for weekends and holidays, but no regulations during the week.
"Our Police Department would prefer the rules to be the same on both sides," said St. Pete Beach City Manager Mike Bonfield.
The St. Pete Beach Commission, at the urging of newly elected Commissioner Al Halpern and area residents, wants to extend the speed regulations to weekdays.
The St. Pete Beach commission was poised to give final approval to a new ordinance at its May 27 meeting but decided instead to postpone a vote until mid July, well after the Treasure Island commission again discusses the issue at its June 17 workshop.
A St. Pete Beach ordinance imposing tighter speed regulations was unanimously approved earlier in the month under the assumption that Treasure Island would agree to pass similar regulations.
Treasure Island Commissioner Alan Bildz proposed a similar ordinance to his commission but was turned down after commissioners argued that since no residents were pushing for the change, there was no need to change the boating rules.
"I have been getting a lot of feedback since then," Bildz told the St. Pete Beach Commission. "I know that 90 to 95 percent of the people are for it, and I can tell you this will get done."
Treasure Island wants proof that the present rules, resulting from a fiercely fought compromise in 1997, are no longer adequate.
"The compromise has worked. This is an unnecessary piece of legislation. There is no safety or overcrowding issue," said Dave Winkler, owner of Captain Dave's Watersports, which rents personal watercraft on Blind Pass.
"There is an issue out there," said St. Pete Beach resident Will Jacoby. "A week ago a baby dolphin was hit and killed by a Jet Skier. Sometimes we have to make rules for the few people who don't have common sense."
One thing is clear: Both commissions say that unless residents and boaters in both communities can agree that stricter rules are needed, it is unlikely there will be any change.