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City Council Authorizes Removal, Reimbursement for Controversial Shamrock Drive Dock

Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 2:30PM

Port Orange, FL - At Tuesday night’s City Council Meeting, members were charged with taking a hard look at a decision they made previously to license city land to a private resident for the construction of a dock and fence.

The additions made to the land have been highly contested by neighborhood residents who claim they were not consulted prior to the City’s approval to build the structures. The dock specifically it at the heart of the debate because residents claim it hinders maneuverability of boats through the canal and it sits only 30 feet from the surrounding homes. One resident called the structure an “eyesore.”

A year ago, the Council approved the licensing agreement to resident Terry Rowe. The license agreement allowed the building of a private dock on public property located in front of 3449 Shamrock Drive. According to the residents, they have customarily used the public space to fish, cast net, and view the Halifax waterway and the use of this area has been removed from the public and given to one resident through the license agreement.

The neighbors who live to the south and north of the dock also spoke and expressed concerns that the use of the dock by Rowe or the public would impact their rear-yard privacy. The agreement was originally entered by the city based on assurances the neighbors did not have issues with the dock being built.

The motion put before the Council was “to authorize the City Manager to terminate the license agreement in accordance with the license agreement, remove the improvements installed in accordance with the license agreement, and reimburse Mr. and Mrs. Rowe for the costs of permitting and constructing those improvement subject to their execution of a full release prepared by the City Attorney's Office.”

Council chambers were packed with affected residents wearing matching t-shirts, galvanized against the dock’s existence. Residents spoke in opposition, noting the area does not have an HOA and were therefore not consulted when the original application for the lease agreement came about.

“There is a misconception that the city gave me anything,” said Rowe when he spoke to councilmembers. “The only thing I own is the wood and the dock which the city granted. If you feel you made a mistake you should bite the bullet and not pass the burden onto me. I spent four years on this project.”

Several residents took to the podium to assure Rowe he is not the target of the discord, but rather the City needs to make right what they believe is the wrong done by allowing this dock and fence to be built in the first place.

When Mayor Donald Burnette called for the motion to come for a vote, no member would offer a second to move the discussion to a vote until Councilman Drew Bastian offered to second the motion only if it opened the opportunity to discuss the issue further as a Council.

“Mr. Rowe went through the process rightly, for eight months to a year, and to remove the dock is such a waste,” Bastian said. “I hate to see it go after all this work.”

Vice Mayor Scott Stiltner added a personal account of how difficult it is to navigate that canal with the dock as it exists. “I took my boat there during high tide and it’s impossible to turn around. Those neighborhood canals need major dredging which is another topic. Bottom line, we made a mistake we need to fix it without further impact on the neighbors or Mr. Rowe.”

For Councilman Chase Tramont, this issue comes down to doing what the City deems right with all the facts available.

“This is a hard one for me, because I pride myself on giving my word and keeping it,” Tramont said. “That being said, I would rather be right than consistent.”

Councilman Bob Ford piggybacked on Tramont’s comments and admitted the Council did not understand the direct impact the leasing agreement was going to have on residents.

“I agree it’s hard not to be consistent, but we have to take a bite out of our pride; it was wrong,” said Ford. “I’m still concerned about the end of these canals and who will assume responsibility. Our mistake was not going down there to look at the property and the distance from other docks. That’s a deal killer.”

City Manager Jake Johansson reminded Council they acted on information provided by his office, which he admits was based on “false assumptions”.

“I take full responsibility for that lack of information and we have put in place steps so this doesn’t happen again,” said Johansson.

The motion went to a vote and ended 4-1 in favor of removal of the dock and reimbursement of Rowe for materials and construction. Bastian was the dissenting vote. Rowe assured the Council he and his legal team are reviewing the rights he has in the state of Florida to retain the dock.

To end the matter for the evening, Mayor Burnette instructed the city manager, “Jake, go make it right.”

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