by LISA MACNEIL
After a 3-2 vote by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on August 25, 2020, Hernando Beach Seafood prevailed in a ruling that will allow the business to use fishing gear, bait and use crab traps on their vessels. Chairman Mitten and Vice Chairman Allocco voted no to interpret the use of fishing gear, bait and crab traps as permissible use of the property.
Recent zoning ordinances resulted in irregularities that left a question about permissible uses of the property, which is currently zoned PDP-CM1 (Planned Development Project-Commercial Marine 1) with some CM2 (Commercial Marine 2) uses. In 2012, restrictions and performance conditions of rezoning petition H12-12 and resolution 2012-111s stated that the loading and unloading of bait, supplies or equipment or product associated with commercial fishing operation is not permissible use of the property and are not accessory to the use of the site as a marina for storage docking or mooring and not contemplated as accessory uses in the CM1 district.
Attorneys for Hernando Beach Seafood, Jake Cremer and Jessica Eiserman stated in their presentation that in 2012 when boats over 26 feet (a CM2 designation) were allowed to be docked at the property, it should have been clear that fishing gear and equipment would be brought onto the vessels and subsequently taken off. The business was cited earlier in 2020 when they were observed to be loading crab traps on one of the vessels.
Eiserman made it clear at the beginning of her presentation that this petition was not for an appeal or rezoning of the property, but rather to interpret the zoning of the property.
She went on to say that, “the standard of review of zoning codes and ordinances must be interpreted in the property owner’s favor and that’s because it can cause a degradation of property rights, so when there is a gray area the interpretation must be in the property owners’ favor.”
After an extensive discussion among the board, the business owner and attorneys, several residents of Hernando Beach expressed their concerns about the allowance of bait, citing issues with foul odors from similar businesses.