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Madeira boat slips clue to road relief?

Tired of terrible traffic backups on the Tom Stuart Causeway, commissioners are looking to the water for some relief on the road.

Commissioners are considering an ordinance that would prohibit any additional commercial boat slips in some areas of the city.

"We do have a traffic problem on both sides of the bridge," said City Commissioner Dewey Leigh at a meeting Tuesday night. "We should not increase the problem with more boats that need the bridge opened."

Leigh said that if the city could prevent at least 40 potential boat slips on the north side of the bridge, at least the problem would not get worse.

This ordinance, if adopted, would not affect slips rented to or by people who live aboard their boats.

That, Leigh said, is another issue, and one the city has been grappling with for more than a year.

But this ordinance could be a problem for a marina owner who has many live-aboards docked there. Barry Loft, owner of ABC Marina, got the go-ahead from commissioners more than a year ago to increase the size of his marina.

One of Loft's attorneys warned the city that after all the time and money Loft has spent to expand his marina, he would need to recover damages somehow.

"That would be a denial of due process and against all the principals of fundamental fairness," attorney Mary Jo Carney said.

If the ordinance changes, it is possible that the ABC Marina's plans could be grandfathered in, commissioners said, but that would be up for discussion later.

Residents told commissioners they did not want the marina to expand and that someone needs to do something about the traffic on the causeway.

"This was a turkey move when you first made it," Steve Weissman said. "We're in the middle of a huge problem. Mr. Loft has good reason to sue if you change. And I think many residents have reason to sue if this stays in place. . . . It's spot zoning."

Commissioners said it is not spot zoning and they want the planning and zoning board to study the proposed change before they continue discussing it.

"I can't control additional traffic. I can't tell the tourists to go home, we need them here," Leigh said. "What I'm trying to do is address the problem of traffic on 150th (Avenue) the best way I can. It ain't going away."