Board continues work on proposed ordinance for abandoned vessels

Published 6:02 pm Monday, October 22, 2018

Washington’s Planning Board, during its meeting today, is scheduled to discuss a proposed ordinance regarding abandoned boats in waterways in the city.

In April, the board began exploring options regarding abandoned and/or derelict vessels in those waterways, especially the Pamlico River. During its April meeting, the board said the issue needs addressing, if for no other reason than safety. Finding the appropriate way to solve the problem could take time, board members noted then.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can handle these boats,” said John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural services, earlier this year.

If an abandoned or derelict vessel is in a channel maintained by the Coast Guard, that agency is responsible for removing such vessels, Rodman said. As for abandoned/derelict vessels not in a channel, there’s some question as to which entity is responsible for removing them so they don’t pose hazards, he said.

Earlier this year, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners enacted an ordinance regarding abandoned vessels in the navigable waters of Ocracoke Harbor, also known as Silver Lake. At least three other coastal counties, including Dare, New Hanover and Brunswick counties, have adopted ordinances to address the issue.

The proposed ordinance, which incorporates state law regarding abandoned and derelict vessels, would be added to existing city regulations regarding nuisances, health and safety.

The proposed ordinance, in part, states, “where there is a violation of any provisions of (state law), the town, at its discretion may take 1 or more of the following enforcement actions:”

  • a police officer may issue a citation subjecting the violator to a $50 civil penalty, with a $25 delinquency charge upon nonpayment of the civil penalty;
  • a misdemeanor warrant may be issued immediately or upon issuance of a citation and the violator’s failure to pay the penalty. Such a misdemeanor is subject a fine up to $500 and/or 30 days in jail;
  • a civil action seeking a penalty of $500 per day of violation.

Prior to any penalties accruing, the police chief or his designee shall attempt to determine the name and address of the vessel’s owner (as well as the person who has possession or custody of the vessel) to give them notification by certified or registered mail at least 10 days before taking any action to enforce the ordinance. The ordinance contains other steps, including legal advertisements in a local newspaper, that must be taken before authorities proceed with enforcement actions, including removing and disposing of a vessel from river or other applicable body of water.

The Planning Board meets at 5:30 p.m. today in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 102 E. Main St.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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