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3 days ago, 05/21/2015 at 3:49pm

Channel DockControversial Dock Being Reconfigured

Late last month, a stop-work order was issued for a controversial 100-foot dock that was under construction at 301 Palermo Circle. The order was issued after Council asked Town staff to investigate complaints by some of the neighbors and it was discovered that the drawings submitted by the applicant in order to receive the permit were inaccurate. This week, Principal Planner Matt Noble told us that the Town and applicant are working to come up with a dock configuration that will keep it out of the navigable channel. This week we asked him and Public Works Director Scott Baker explain where the channels are in the back bay and who is responsible for maintaining them.

"The main channel is a federal channel and it comes around Bowditch Point and splits once it crosses under the Matanzas Pass Bridge,” Noble said. "The federal arm goes (left) over to San Carlos Island and ends in a large, deep turnaround just past Bonita Bill’s. The other arm - called the South Fairway - runs along Estero Island out through Big Carlos Pass. This part is maintained by the Town.”

It was into the South Fairway that the dock at 301 Palermo stretched. The #2 red channel marker, marking the edge of that channel had disappeared in 2013, but has recently been replaced, as has the green #3 marker on the opposite side of the channel.

"On the permit, the applicant indicated that the channel was 'unmarked', something the Town's consultant - Coastal Engineering Consultants - determined was not true,” Noble said. "The South Fairway channel is in a different location than depicted on the permit, and the dock extends 20 feet into the channel instead of being set back 40 feet."

Since construction on the dock began, neighbors have called it a navigational hazard, saying they had to veer toward the mooring field to dodge it. Neighboring docks at 311 and 321 Palermo are set back approximately 30 feet from the channel, though there is nothing specific in the Town's Land Development Code (LDC) stating how far docks should be from the edge of the channel.

Noble told us that a new configuration of the dock had it extending out 12 feet, then turning sharply to the left for another 80 feet. Just before press time, we learned that the applicant has deemed the new dock configuration unacceptable due to concerns with the angle of the dock and access to it should his neighbors construct a dock.

Both Noble and Baker told us that the Town is in the process of doing a survey of all the markers along the Town's channel.

"We have discovered some other markers that are missing and we are also determining if the markers are in the right place,” Baker said. "This survey includes the yellow buoys marking the outside of the mooring field, some of which are faded, missing or in disrepair.”

Scott explained that the Town sometimes facilitates with the West Coast Inland Navigational District (WCIND) for these surveys, as they are responsible for maintaining the federal channel along with the Coast Guard.

For the time being, Noble said, construction barricades with reflective markings are attached to the newly placed R2 and G3 channel markers as well as the end of the dock to help boaters navigate the channel.

Keri Hendry Weeg

Channel Dock: The current dock behind 301 Palermo Circle. Construction barricades have been added to the dock and new channel markers R2 and G3 for boater’s safety. Photo by Sandy Sandness.