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Live-Aboard Boaters in Delray Beach Enjoy Dream Rents at City Marina – for Now

May 15, 2007

By Erika Slife, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

May 15–DELRAY BEACH — For a few lucky folks, home comes with breathtaking views of the Intracoastal Waterway and a landscaped garden tended to weekly, all for less than $500 a month, utilities included.

Welcome to the Delray Beach city marina.

In the heart of the Marina Historic District, a short walk from downtown, the city marina has the cheapest rents in Palm Beach and Broward counties for live-aboard boat owners. The owner of a 35-foot vessel pays $472.50 a month, compared with $2,580 the same boat owner could pay to dock near the megayachts at the Fort Lauderdale Las Olas marina during season or a $619.50 flat fee in Riviera Beach, not including taxes.

“It’s a heck of a deal,” said former Mayor Jeff Perlman.

At a time when most local governments are bracing for a financial hit from a possible property tax overhaul coming out of Tallahassee, Delray Beach officials are scrutinizing the marina’s rates as a place to generate more money.

In January, the parks department surveyed marina fees in Palm Beach and Broward counties. While different municipal marinas use different formulas, depending on boat size and time of year, Delray Beach rates came in the cheapest despite being raised a few years ago, the city’s review showed.

Maximum rent at the marina is $742.50 a month, well below Palm Beach County’s median rent of $936, according to the U.S. Census 2005 American Community Survey.

“We don’t want to gouge anyone, but we should be around where the market is and right now we’re well below it,” said City Commissioner Woodie McDuffie, an avid boater and boat owner.

The low-rent marina comes with high-class amenities. It abuts million-dollar homes. Nearby, an air-conditioned clubhouse open only to marina residents has showers, a washer and dryer, ice machine and a reading room. Electricity and water are included with rent, and city workers trim and prune the lush landscaping once a week.

There are 24 slips, with an estimated seven-year waiting list. The only way to get in, marina residents joke, is for someone to die.

“First I waited four years, then seven,” said Jim Strong, 68, who briefly took his name off the list and then changed his mind. “Our neighbor waited eight years. The more marinas you go to visit, the luckier you feel.”

Boating is big business in South Florida — last year, the industry contributed $2 billion to the Palm Beach County economy, according to the Marine Industries Association of South Florida — and it’s been well documented that there is a shortage of docking spaces.

Delray Beach’s price makes its marina that much more attractive, boaters say.

“Obviously no one wants to pay high rents if they can avoid it,” said Jim Bronstien, a board member of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.

On a recent day a line of sunbathed boats bobbed in the Intracoastal Waterway. City workers tended the bushes and grass. Water lapped at the docks.

“We all feel pretty lucky,” said marina resident Jay Kerby, 75, who spent a scant 38 months waiting to get in.

Jay Nevins, of Boca Raton, isn’t feeling as lucky.

He was on the list for nearly six years when his number came up a few months ago. Unfortunately for him, he was in between boats and had to take a pass. His name fell to the back of the list: No. 374.

“I probably won’t see it in my lifetime,” the 62-year-old said sadly.

Christopher Andrews, 41, knew it was going to be a long wait when he signed up Dec. 23, 1999.

“It’s a great location and, also, the cost to keep a boat there is much lower than a private marina,” Andrews, of Delray Beach, said. He entered the long wait with two thoughts.

“Hopefully, we would be selected, and by that point, we would have a boat to put in it,” he said.

The planning worked. He bought a boat two years ago and stores it in Stuart. And Andrews now is No. 1 on the list.

Erika Slife can be reached at eslife@sun-sentinel.com or at 561-243-6690.

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Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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