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Measure would restrict boats

(ran Beach, West, Seminole editions)

Render Britton has a 43-foot sailboat tethered to his dock out back. He also has two sport fishing boats, a 46 footer and a 40 footer, but he's trying to sell one of those.

"The market isn't real good for selling boats right now," he said.

Add his 16-foot jet boat ("I'm going to sell that, too," Britton said) and his two personal watercraft ("For the grandkids," he said), and Britton has a blossoming marina at his dock.

Some neighbors aren't pleased. City Council members, fearing residents who accumulate too many boats endanger neighboring properties, are prepared to legislate against boat menageries such as Britton's.

"If you've got six, eight, 10 boats behind your dock, being tethered from your dock, it's a bit of a concern about what would happen if we had a storm come through," said Mary Jo Henderson, a member of the Belleair Beach City Council.

Whether city government should restrict how many boats can dock behind a waterfront property has caused a stir in Belleair Beach. Opponents to the proposed ordinance have collected about 200 petition signatures. Few supporters have stepped forward, though council members say they're hearing from them.

"People don't want their names mentioned," said Chuck Pollick, a City Council member. "Some of them might be neighbors, and they don't want to get into a tiff with the neighbors."

The ordinance states that only two boats and two personal watercraft may be moored at a residential dock. It provides definitions for those vessels and dictates measurements for pilings, boat lifts, cleaning tables and dock roofs.

The City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance for a second and final time Monday night. On its first reading, the ordinance passed 4-3. Some members voted against it because they hoped to send the ordinance back to the Public Safety Committee to clarify some key points.

Even Henderson, who chaired the committee that recommended the ordinance, said she thinks it goes too far. "I think there's some middle ground here," said Henderson, who thinks the ordinance needs to better define what types of boats are restricted. "We don't want something that's so strict it makes citizens feel like they can't enjoy the water."

Dennis Campbell, who owns four homes in Belleair Beach, including one on the water, calls the ordinance "small-town semantics." He doesn't own a multitude of boats, but he thinks he should have the right to.

"There are people who move to this area just because they want to have access for the water," said Campbell, pointing out that only a handful of property owners in Belleair Beach have more boats than the ordinance would allow. Campbell helped collect petition signatures against the ordinance. "These guys like Render Britton, he's got big, beautiful boats lined up behind his house, and it looks cool."

According to boat registration records, 310 marine vessels are registered to Belleair Beach owners. The city, population 1,633, has the second-highest average home value of any municipality in Pinellas, second to Belleair Shore.

Though Pinellas County does not regulate how many boats residents can dock behind their homes, it has a dock construction code that generally allows only two boat slips per residence, said Dave Walker, environmental program manager for Pinellas County.

That doesn't stop property owners from getting more use out of their docks.

"You can raft boats together and tie them up in creative ways," Walker said.

That's what the council is afraid of. Besides the complaints council members have received from people who don't like their neighbors stockpiling boats at their docks, council members say they are concerned about hurricane safety.

"We all have to keep one thing in mind," Henderson said, "and that's the best interest of everyone living in that community."

_ Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.