Residents along Baltimore County's 173 miles of waterfron soon will have to limit the number of boats they can moor on their private piers.
On Monday, the County Council passed legislation amending the zoning code and restricting to six the maximum number of boats at a private pier. That is one fewer than initially proposed, but two more than the county Office of Planning and Zoning recommended.
The approved legislation also allows for storing up to three boats out of water, depending on the size of the residential lot.
Residents in the Essex-Middle River area led the drive to limit the number of boats at private piers. Many complained that an increasing number of private pier owners were turning their piers into illegal marinas, in some cases mooring as many as 20 boats.
Those bootleg marinas weren't covered by county zoning regulations. They didn't have to provide off-street parking, proper fuel facilities or equipment to pump human waste from the boats. Their owners escaped the higher taxes paid by owners of commercial marinas. And the increasingly popular marinas were often crowded.
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.
Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, asked the county planning staff to review changes to the zoning code. The staff, and subsequently the Planning Board, approved a recommendation that no more than four boats 16 feet or larger could be moored at a private pier, but during a hearing in the 5th District, pier owners complained about the restriction.
Mr. Gardina responded by amending his bill. The change would have allowed four boats on property having a waterfront of 50 feet or less, five boats on property with 51 to 75 feet of waterfront, six on property with 76 to 100 feet of waterfront and seven where is more than 100 feet of waterfront.
Community leaders objected to those changes, and Mr. Gardina made further changes to reach a compromise.
The bill as passed would limit to four the number of boats on property with up to 50 feet of waterfront; it would allow five boats on waterfront of 51 and 100 feet; and six boats could be moored on waterfront of more than 100 feet. Residents who exceed these limits could petition to have their property rezoned to a special marina zone.