Wednesday, January 17, 2018
News Roundup

Plan to operate scenic cruises out of Hernando Beach draws concerns

HERNANDO BEACH — A proposal to allow a 45-foot boat to run scenic cruises from a docking point in Hernando Beach has generated new concerns among residents who have previously questioned other commercial uses in their residential neighborhood.

The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission will hear the request Monday, with a final public hearing before the County Commission coming later this summer.

Marina Rose Enterprises LLC, represented by Randall Rossi, submitted an application recently asking for an exception to the length of boats docked on a 7,562-square-foot commercially zoned lot at the northwest corner of Calienta Street and Gulf Coast Drive. County planners instead have recommended a rezoning from commercial to planned development project, which would allow the county to impose conditions on the usage.

In early July, more than 40 residents turned out for a public information workshop to hear a presentation about the proposal and to discuss it. The applicant has proposed using a 45-foot, 21-passenger tritoon boat called the Island Rose, which is decorated like a paddle boat, to run lunch, sunset and scenic cruises out Rock Bass Canal.

That canal currently has limited commercial activity, unlike the next canal to the north, Tarpon Canal, which is the location of the county's boat ramp and which also is used by commercial fishermen and shrimp boats.

While there has been some community support for recreational boating businesses, other residents raised concerns about what might happen in the future if Rossi sells the business. They also questioned how the boat would affect the waterway by stirring up silt. Many wanted to make sure the size of the boat was limited.

During the workshop, Rossi said that any future business operator would have to adhere to the rules approved by the county or go through a new public hearing process. He pointed out that other residential boats stir up the bottom, and their size is not restricted. He also indicated he eventually hoped to increase the size of the boat so he could handle 25 to 28 people.

Many in the audience worried about how the operation would affect their residential area.

"I know the path you are taking is on one of the last undeveloped canals. There are people that swim in the canal. You're going to have to be aware. Some of them are kids, and they are out in the middle,'' Hernando Beach resident Larry Faragher was quoted as saying in the workshop minutes.

"Our vessel will be operated by an experienced licensed captain. The visibility on this boat is great,'' Rossi responded.

"The biggest concern about what you are doing is the rezoning aspect,'' Faragher said. "It's going to open the door.''

County planning staffers have recommended approval of the zoning change and several conditions. Only one commercial vessel over 26 feet would be allowed and the size would be limited to 45 feet. No other commercial or recreational boats would be allowed at the dock. And the one boat could only be used for passive recreational scenic cruises and charters while a commercial fishing boat would not be allowed.

Development of anything on the lot except for what is needed to operate the boat would not be allowed under the recommendations of the planning staff.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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