Biscayne Park may require variances to store boats in front yards

Biscayne Park residents will need a variance from the city to keep their boats or recreational vehicles in their front yards, under new rules the Village Commission tentatively approved on Tuesday.

This would be a change from current rules, which allow such vehicles without special permission from Village Hall.

The proposal sharply divided commissioners and residents at the Village Commission meeting.

Mayor Noah Jacobs and Vice Mayor Bryan Cooper wanted to allow residents some leeway, while commissioners Robert Anderson and Roxanna Ross wanted to limit many of the key points. Meanwhile, although Commissioner Barbara Watts voted with Ross and Anderson in several areas, she said she wanted to review the original code more thoroughly.

Two of the proposed changes include how many recreational vehicles are permitted on someone’s property and reviewers have also changed the term “boat” to “watercraft” in order to include items such as kayaks, canoes and water scooters such as WaveRunners or JetSkis.

“Originally, reviewing the code was meant to help those who can’t keep boats in the back of their homes,” said Ross.

However, trying to resolve that situation has opened up a slew of other issues. For example, if a resident is unable to keep a boat in the back or side of their house, once the new ordinance goes into effect, they will have to apply for a variance to keep the boat in front of the house. The code also states that the boat would have to be on an approved driveway surface.

Cooper disagreed with this rule, calling it a “horribly excessive financial hit” for the residents.

“We’re trying to protect lifestyle choices, family-value choices,” said Cooper. “This shouldn’t be so tight and repressive.”

Other changes state that recreational vehicles parked on the property “shall not be used for living or sleeping quarters,” even though visitors in RVs could stay on the property for 14 days. Jacobs wanted to increase that number to 21 days.

Anderson argued, “Are we going to be a campground now?”

Furthermore, the proposed new code includes a list of fines for violations that could run as high as $5,000.

“I just don’t think this is going to be doled out fairly,” said Ronald Coyle, 55, who has lived in Biscayne Park his whole life.

Other residents distributed red flyers to boat and RV owners warning that “the right of boat and RV owners is under attack by a small minority of villagers who are pressing your Biscayne Park commissioners to create a new law against your interests, and against the family values of outdoor enthusiasts.”

Now that the proposed changes have passed their first reading, City Manager Ana Garcia encourages residents to familiarize themselves with the code in preparation for the second reading at the July 9 commission meeting to be held at 7 p.m. at the Ed Burke Recreation Center, 11400 NE Ninth Ct.