December 26, 2013

Some North Miami Beach residents want changes to boat-parking rules

Sunray West residents say their small lots make it hard to conceal boats in the back or side yard.

Some residents of North Miami Beach’s Sunray West neighborhood want the city to change a law that prevents them from parking boats in their driveways, saying the neighborhood’s small lots don’t leave room to store vessels in the side or back yards.

Since October 2012, nearly one-third of all the 1,134 complaints registered on the city’s smartphone app, “Fixit NMB,” came from Sunray West. The app makes it easy for anonymous tipsters to report or send a picture of a possible code violation. The requests are then routed to the appropriate city department for action.

The city doesn’t track how many of those tickets were boat-related, but neighborhood residents have little doubt.

“I’ve been living here for the last 25 years, and in the past six months so many of us are getting harassed by code enforcement to move our boats,” said Irma Arce. She and her husband received a notice this summer that they had 30 days to move their boat from the front of the house or face a daily fine of $150.

“We couldn’t fit our boat on the side of the house so my husband had to go through an alley to put it in our backyard. We used to go out on our boats every weekend and now he can’t get it out. It’s stuck,” said Arce.

Eric Wardle, manager of North Miami Beach’s Code Compliance Division said he isn’t stepping up enforcement but rather still responding to a backlog of complaints received since last year.

“We had one individual who turned in over 500 hand-written complaints. They were very detailed,” Wardle said.

About a year ago, resident Cliff Mayhew made some 594 complaints to the city after he was found with violations at his own residence at the northern end of the city. The complaints addressed a variety of topics.

“He stopped, but we still have to respond to all complaints. I don’t know why, but the Sun Ray West neighborhood seems to generate a majority of the complaints, ” Wardle said.

The neighborhood’s homes, which were built in the 1950s, were designed to appeal to empty-nesters and retirees. A typical home had 1,200 square feet of living area, but in recent years many of the residents have added rooms and expanded carports, diminishing the yard size.

Cinthia Marquez and her husband have racked up $9,750 in fines for parking their 25-foot boat in front of their house. They have been living in the home that her parents owned for the last 10 years.

“We got three violations in July saying our driveway was not properly maintained and defined, that our truck was in the driveway and that our boat wasn’t supposed to be in the the front yard,” she said.

The Marquezes removed the truck, weeded their gravel driveway and edged the border with red bricks. After that, they moved their boat to the side of the house because there wasn’t space for it in the back yard.

Marquez went to a code-enforcement hearing and showed the board a satellite picture of her backyard. There was a pool in the yard, leaving no room for a boat.

“I was told that if we moved the backyard fence and make more room for the boat in the driveway, that would be okay,” she said.

So they did. But in November they got another notice granting them credit for the maintenance repairs but not for moving the boat. The fine amount was still $4,500.

“We told her that the boat has to fit completely behind the front of the house and it doesn’t,” said Wardle.

Councilman Anthony DeFillipo lives in the neighborhood and keeps his 24-foot boat in his backyard. He said it’s not fair to penalize the homeowners since they have been parking their boats in driveways for a long time.

“With Haulover Beach so close, a lot of people moved to the neighborhood because they enjoy boating. I would be for a compromise that would be fair to the residents and the city so that they could park their boats in their driveway, ” said DeFillipo.

Emad Alkayyali lives on the same street and has his 20-foot boat parked on the side of his house. Even though he hasn’t gotten any violations, Alkayyali has helped collect nearly 40 signatures for a petition to ask the City Council to change the rules.

“It’s ridiculous that some people are getting hassled. It’s not fair. We all watch out for each other here. We’ll pay a special permit to keep our boats in our yards. I hope the City Council will help us,” said Alkayyali.

Boat regulations can cause a stir in South Florida cities. In July, for example, more than 50 residents protested rules by Biscayne Park commissioners requiring residents to get a variance from the city to keep boats or recreational vehicles in their front yard.

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