NAPLES — Naples has lost a second round in its longstanding feud with charter fishing boat captains over slow speed zones on Naples Bay.
The city had appealed a decision by Collier County Judge Michael Provost in 2012 that tossed out the city’s speed zones on the grounds that the city didn’t have a valid speed zone law on the books.
Two boat captains pushed the issue by challenging tickets they received after they purposely violated a controversial go-slow zone expansion the city adopted in 2004.
A panel of three circuit court judges has upheld Provost’s decision, but with a legal wrinkle.
City Attorney Bob Pritt has notified council members that he’s reviewing whether the city should ask for a rehearing. The City Council plans to discuss the matter at its Wednesday meeting in council chambers at City Hall on Eighth Street South.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re finished with this,” Naples Mayor John Sorey said Monday, calling the decision “just another erosion of home rule.”
One of the two boat captains who challenged his speeding ticket said the city should drop it.
“They know they’re wrong,” Capt. Mike Bailey said Monday. “They’ve known all along they’re wrong.”
Neither Pritt nor Naples lawyer Donald Day, who represented the charter boat captains, could be reached for comment Monday.
Provost’s decision and the ruling by the appellate panel pertain only to the city’s slow speed zones. Manatee protection speed zones remain in effect in spots on Naples Bay. Laws against unsafe boating also still apply on the bay.
Slow speed zones have been a touchy topic on Naples Bay for years, even before the 2004 expansion, with boaters aligned against bayfront mansion owners. Speed zone backers said the zones are needed for safety and environmental protection.
Even the decision to appeal Provost’s ruling was controversial, with council members Doug Finlay, Gary Price and Teresa Heitmann voting against an appeal.
Here’s how the city got to this point:
After months of debate, the council voted to approve an expansion of a slow speed zone in the southern end of the bay in 2004.
The zone never went into effect, though, because opponents successfully challenged a state permit required to mark the new speed zone. A judge ruled that the city hadn’t proven a safety hazard on the bay.
City attorneys argued that a 1994 speed zone law remained in effect, but Day argued that the 2004 law repealed the 1994 speed zones. Provost agreed and found the city had no valid speed zone law on the books.
In a twist on Provost’s ruling, the appellate panel disagreed on that point. Instead, the panel found that the 2004 law couldn’t have repealed the 1994 law because the 2004 law never went into effect after the permit challenge.
The panel, though, said Provost’s ultimate conclusion was correct because of yet another law that Day cited during the appeal.
A 2006 law, which was meant to clean up the city’s books, didn’t include the 1994 law and so it was “repealed with the possibility of revival,” the panel wrote in its ruling.
Now it’s up to the City Council to determine whether it’s case closed.