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Backyard boat storage battle in Belleair Bluffs put on hold

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As a retired Air Force aviation mechanic, Rafael Casalduc has traveled the country. He and his wife of 28-years finally decided to settle down in Belleair Bluffs, primarily because he could keep his boat in the backyard. Being on the water is his and his wife’s passion.

“I love fishing. She just likes to cruise,” said Casalduc. “And this is the thing we do to enjoy our free time. “

But a proposed city ordinance threatened to put the stop on his method of storage.

“We were really upset and concerned,” said Casalduc. “Because, like all of the people said, it is your house. These are your rights and we are not violating anything! “

City leaders were set to vote on the ordinance on Monday night, but decided to delay the vote indefinitely because of the public input.

In simple terms, the current ordinance regulating boat storage at residential homes is vague at best. It allows vessels to be stored in enclosed garages or in backyards if 80-percent of the boat is not visible.

But how can those enforcing the ordinance determine if 20-percent of a vessel is showing? Some residents complained that whenever a new officer came around, he or she would question the storage.

The issue first went in front of planning board members, who then gave a recommendation to the mayor and city council.

Suzy Sofer is a city council member, but addressed the planning board as a citizen. “Honestly it feels like the city of Belleair Bluffs is chosing a terrible time to change how we are doing business,” said Sofer.

Once the matter went before city leaders, Mayor Chris Arbutine Sr. recommended that the council create an advisory board to give the council direction. Rafael Casalduc is now a part of that team and hopes to convince the city not to change the ordinance at all.

Casalduc is also concerned that if the issue isn’t resolved this time around, it could come back to haunt residents.

“If we don’t make sure that it gets stopped, right in the tracks, it will come back again.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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