Community leaders in eastern Baltimore County are voicing their dissatisfaction over what they feel is a watered-down proposal to regulate so-called bootleg marinas.
Last summer, the county's Planning Board examined the illegal marina problem and, in September, recommended limiting waterfront homeowners to no more than four boats per marina.
The board took up the issue at the request of Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th. Concerned residents had told him about the illegal marinas along the eastern county's 173 miles of waterfront. Since then, the council has held a public hearing on the board's recommendation and Mr. Gardina has held a town meeting.
Now, he is set to introduce a bill tomorrow that would allow waterfront homeowners to moor four to seven boats at their piers.
"I don't think it's right," said Dave Cahlender, vice president of the Stevens Road Improvement Association.
Mr. Cahlender wants a public hearing before the council votes. He also said Mr. Gardina's bill would allow many bootleg marina owners to become legal without having to pay any penalty for prior illegal action.
These marinas aren't covered by county zoning regulations. They don't have to provide off-street parking, proper fuel facilities or equipment to pump human waste from the boats. Their owners also don't have to pay the higher taxes paid by commercial marinas owners. And, the increasingly popular marinas are often crowded. In some cases, 15 to 20 boats are berthed at one illegal marina.
The bootleg marinas are cheaper than commercial ones, which charge $900 to $2,500 a year for a boat slip. Private marina owners charge about $650 a year, according to a county planning staff survey.
Bob Christopher, chairman of the Back River Neck Peninsula Community Association's board of directors, said his organization and the Essex-Middle River Civic Council had wanted to restrict private piers to no more than three boats.
According to Mr. Gardina's bill, homeowners whose waterfront is 50 feet or less would be limited to four boats, 16 feet or more in length; those with 51 to 75 feet of waterfront could have five boats; those with 76 to 100 feet of waterfront could have six boats; and those with more than 100 feet of waterfront could have seven boats.
"If it came down to it, we could live with the bill as it is proposed, said Mr. Christopher, who also had wanted a public hearing on the bill. "We were hoping for another chance to whittle the number of boats allowed back down to four."
In responding to criticism about increasing the number of boats allowed, Mr. Gardina pointed out that approximately 80 percent of the waterfront properties are 50 feet or less.
If the bill is passed, illegal marina owners would have until Nov. 15 to comply. The bill also would allow a private homeowner to request a special exception to allow more than seven boats for family members only.