Seaplane Basin boat dwellers face eviction

Tampa police issued 35 notices

DAVIS ISLANDS, Fla. - After spending more than a decade living on his boat, Red Grogg says it's the only home he knows or has.  But with an eviction order from the city of Tampa, Grogg is facing the possibility of being homeless.

"30 days isn't enough time for anybody to even move from one place to another," said Grogg, 54, who's currently battling cancer.  "Unless you want us to move into a cardboard box and live on the street."

Grogg is among several boat owners who have vessels anchored or moored in Seaplane Basin, right next to the Davis Island Yacht Club. Tampa police placed orange eviction stickers on at least 35 boats in the basin, with more expected.

"Our goal is to go through the proper steps so that we can have boats that are legally moored there," said Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.  

"They want to be able to land seaplanes in the basin, but the boats are in the direct path," McElroy said.

Police were responding to a complaint from Hillsborough County and the Federal Aviation Administration about the boats, and the city of Tampa reviewed legal options before issuing the notices.

The city believes the boaters are violating a law that prohibits the owners from living aboard their vessel without a permit. But the boaters said a state law prohibits local government from imposing rules on boats that are anchored offshore.

In this case, however, many of the boats are not anchored, but moored. The distinction could be crucial in a legal argument against the boaters.

In addition to the possible law violations, members of the nearby yacht club have complained about environmental issues they believe are connected to the boats moored in the basin. In particular, the removal of waste from the boats themselves.

"We have all these people living in the basin. Do they ever go up to Marjorie Park to pump out?" asked Patrick Crump, a yacht club member. "The Marjorie Park staff will tell you no. Where's the crap going?" said Crump.

Some visitors to the basin said they hope a compromise is reached between the city and the boat owners, especially those with limited means like Grogg.

"Why can't they help the man?" asked Arnie Wysocki, who occasionally anchors his houseboat in the basin.  "We have to be a community. We have to work together," he said.


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