Town Shores boat owners who moor their vessels at docks in the private condominium complex located in the southwest section of Gulfport may be forced to move their boats by September 1.
The condominium’s governing group called the Master Association sent official notifications dated August 3 to known boat owners by certified U.S. Mail that read, “due to concerns about unsafe conditions of the dock structures,” all boats must be removed by September 1 or they “will be considered abandoned and will be towed at the owner’s expense and possibly placed up for sale at an auction.”
Officials of the association contacted for this story declined comment, including President Jean Proach, out of state for medical reasons, and Vice President Tom Chillog who is acting president in her absence. The association’s attorney Richard Zacur of St. Petersburg would also not comment for this story.
According to official records and anonymous sources speaking without the authority to represent the association, the written notification to boat owners was the result of a special closed meeting of the association and building delegates on August 2, and a 174-page engineering study dated March 14, 2016. The study details structural conditions in the complex including the north and south boat docks, which have existed for at least 20 years.
Town Shores is an over-55 waterfront community consisting of 18 buildings and 1,327condominiums. Each condominium or door is assessed annual dues and a percentage of these funds goes to the Master Association to maintain common areas such as boat docks. Each building has several people representing it for association business with titles such as president, first vice president, secretary, house manager and member at large.
Immediately following the August 2 meeting, both docks were closed to everyone by sawhorses at each entrance with “caution do not cross” tape tied between them. By early the next morning, the sawhorses and tape were replaced with white plastic trellis walls with swing access gates. Printed signs read, “No trespassing” and “Boat owners only.”
An association letterhead memo signed by Association Manager Roger D. Bell was posted in the lobby of one of the buildings on Monday, August 8. It states, “There are many problem areas that were addressed in the study. Many of these problems are essentially emergency situations.”
How or why, exactly, the issues raised in the dock study constitute “emergency situations” has not been made clear.
According to page 86 of the March 2016 study, “The South dock was observed to have composite decking in good condition. Out of 26 main dock pilings, replacement of the corroded through bolts should be considered within the next couple of years. Pilings should remain intact, but should be monitored for wear. Railing post attachment through bolts are in good condition but have become loose; replacement with larger stainless steel bolts and washers is recommended. All electrical equipment, cleats, and ladders appeared to be in good condition. The North dock was observed to be in similar condition. The North Eastern most piling is not stable and should be replaced.”
During the last budget year, the association spent $60,000 to upgrade the electrical on both docks.
The North Dock has about 20 viable slips and the South Dock has about eight. Not all existing slips are rented, as some are located in water that is too shallow to accommodate boats at low tide.
Currently, there are three different monthly rental prices depending on the sizes of the slips: $80, $100 and $120. Some have suggested to change this to a cost per foot and double the fees so money is available for immediate repairs and continuing maintenance.
The docks benefit boat owners and condominium owners can count them as an amenity for their property. Market value is subjective but according to real estate professionals familiar with the complex, the dollar amount difference can be from $5,000 to $10,000 per unit for those condos that have a view of the water where the boat docks are located.
According to a source that answered the complex office phone following the August 2 meeting, an official sub committee was formed to discuss details of the docks and is chaired by Mary Torrey, secretary for the Nottingham building. The committee met for the first time at noon August 8. During that meeting attended by about 50 people, two other meetings were planned for August 10 at 3:30 p.m. and August 12 at 10 a.m. in the clubhouse.
A second engineering opinion commissioned by the association from Reuben Clarson Consulting, a licensed marine engineering firm in St. Petersburg, dated August 7, was delivered in print just before the August 8 meeting. It stated, “It is my recommendation that both docks be rebuilt in the next 8-12 months. I recommend closing the docks to boat owners in say 1-2 months due to the possible legal consequences of a dock collapse. Your situation with the docks is not uncommon. Within the last 1-2 years my company has had to engineer two new large condominium docks in Tierra Verde which had similar conditions.”
Estimates discussed at the August 2 meeting were $60,000 for removal or $350,000 for replacement of the two docks.
One boat owner and experienced captain, Tom D’angelo, the volunteer dock master appointed by Proach, is seeking additional expert proposals regarding the structural state of the docks and is focusing on the following three options: repair, replace or remove.
The fate of the docks is expected to be decided at the August 16 Master Association meeting.