A funny thing happened on the way to the boat ramp. As City of Marathon staff and volunteers approached the drivers lining up to launch at the Quay boat ramp to distribute educational materials the Saturday before lobster mini season, drivers were reaching for their wallets … at the free ramp.
“They are used to paying elsewhere. They were coming up to us and asking how much,” said Councilman John Bartus, who volunteered at the ramp.
“They had their billfolds out,” said Mayor Luis Gonzalez.
The discussion item was placed on the Aug. 10 agenda of the Marathon City Council by Councilman Dan Zieg. He proposes to charge visitors $50 per “round trip” — boats going in the water and boats coming out of the water — and a $10 annual permit for locals to launch.
“Residents would need special treatment in this matter; maybe we could charge $10 for an annual permit to launch. They would need to have a driver’s license with a Marathon address and a boat registration and trailer registration that matches it,” Zieg said.
Zieg also said that an informal poll of the boaters waiting to launch on the Saturday before lobster mini-season found that 75% were staying in Key Colony Beach.
“By tweaking our own resolution, we can encourage Key Colony Beach to service their own rentals and we can relieve a safety and congestion issue on U.S.1,” Zieg said. “And it would encourage boaters to use private launches and take pressure off the City of Marathon boat ramps at the Quay and 33rd Street.”
Just before lobster mini-season, the city of Marathon declared the Harbor Drive boat ramp off-limits to boats on trailers with more than two axles. It also reserved the right to close the one parking space at that ramp. The city owns two other ramps: at the Quay and 33rd Street.
If Marathon were to charge fees at city-owned ramps, it would not be the first. The City of Crystal River began charging fees in August of this year. That city is also charging for daily parking.
Marathon City Council directed staff to work on a proposal that would also address how and when to staff the boat ramps and how to collect fees.
Effective immediately, any commercial or high-rise building that is more than 17 years older will have to be inspected and recertified every 10 years. The Marathon City Council passed the ordinance on Aug. 10 in response to the June 24 tragedy in Surfside, the collapse of the The Champlain Towers South condo building that killed 97 people.
Marathon’s law does not apply to residential units that are considered “minor” — occupied by 10 or fewer people, or 2,000 square feet or less.
When they receive notice, building owners will have 90 days to submit a report to the city building official prepared by a professional engineer or architect registered in the state of Florida. And, if found deficient, the owner will have 150 days to complete repairs or modifications. If the professional finds any unsafe condition, the city’s building official must be notified immediately, and he can issue a stop work order and declare the “cessation of use” of the building.
The city has come up with a rough list of buildings to recertify that accounts for about 406 condo units, plus commercial businesses and multi-unit homes on 691 parcels in the City of Marathon. The list, however, is very preliminary.
“There are some still on this list that would no longer apply, such as Ocean Isles Fishing Village which is currently under reconstruction,” said Planning Director Brian Shea. “This also includes things built in 2005, which is 16 years, and not the 17 stated in the ordinance, just to be proactive.”
The list includes buildings like Bonefish Towers, the tallest in the Keys and built in 1975, but also restaurants and service shops and even multi-family compounds. Shea said the preliminary list will be refined as the process continues.
In other news:
• All four candidates for Marathon City Council — incumbent Luis Gonzalez, Jody “Lynny” Del Gaizo, Greg Coldiron and Trevor Wofsey — have qualified to run for office. So far, Coldiron has the biggest war chest at $52,820. Luis Gonzalez has $13,020 and Del Gaizo has $6,700. Wofsey has a $0 balance. The election is on Nov. 2, 2021.
• Marathon City Council is revisiting its decision to raise vacation rental taxes. Council asked staff to explain its reasoning for the higher fees.
• The Landry Sayer Clean the Curb day has been set for Saturday, Sept. 25. The Marathon 6-year-old proposed the clean up at a council meeting in May.
• There will be a 9/11 ceremony at the Marathon fire station to commemorate the event on Saturday, Sept. 11. It will begin at 8:30 a.m.