Annapolis Anne Arundel tout Weems Creek partnership

August 25, 2017

The Annapolis Harbormaster's Office has removed 14 derelict sailboats, two abandoned dingys and evicted six people living on vessels who were violating city code on the waters of Weems Creek.

The enforcement efforts are part of a partnership between Annapolis and Anne Arundel County to enforce city rules on Weems Creek. City and county boundaries split the creek in half, so officials have struggled to enforce city rules when boaters cross the water into the county.

Mayor Mike Pantelides and County Executive Steve Schuh have partnered on a variety of topics, including economic development and transportation.

A memorandum of understanding signed in November gave the city harbormaster the authority to enforce city rules on the county side of the water. This allows easier removal of derelict boats and chases away people who were causing problems for residents on both sides of the creek. Historically, people would just move over to the county side to avoid city enforcement.

Bobbie Scholley, who lives on the county side of the creek, said one boat left in the water became unmoored and floated into private piers. One of the people on the creek flashed another person.

“It was creating an unsavory environment," Scholley said. "This MOU has made it safer for our families."

Schuh and Pantelides touted the success of the partnership at a news conference Thursday at the Tucker Street boat ramp, a public water access point in Annapolis. Alderman Fred Paone, whose ward runs along the creek, joined the two Republican executives.

While the meeting was Republican heavy, Schuh gave credit to County Councilman Chris Trumbauer, the democrat who spearheaded efforts to pass county legislation allowing the partnership.

When asked why the officials waited almost nine months to announce the enforcement efforts, Schuh said "We wanted to see results."

Pantelides said the announcement was the next logical step after signing the agreement and allowing the city harbormaster to enforce the new rules.

“We have a beautiful waterfront behind us… Literally, right down the middle of this creek people would move over to the county to avoid all the things that were happening," Pantelides said. "We have seen the results. We have seen more paddle boarders and more sailboats in the creek."

Since the county doesn't have anything equivalent to a harbormaster, it made it difficult to chase culprits while one side of the creek abided by different sets of rules, Trumbauer said. He represents the Annapolis area on the County Council.

Legislation allowing the city and county partnership was passed unanimously by the County Council in July. With the city onboard to help, it improves the lives of people living on both sides of the creek, he said.

Trumbauer was invited to Thursday's event but had a scheduling conflict.

“It is a fairly elegant solution to a challenging problem,” Trumbauer said.

Annapolis' enforcement of the agreement started slowly, with letters sent to nearby homes and warnings given to offenders.

Investigation techniques have been streamlined, and the enforcement isn't causing any undue stress on the department, Bellis said.

She had advice for people thinking of getting a boat or passing on a boat to a friend: Be aware of the cost of a boat's upkeep and make sure the primary owner, user of the boat has it registered under their name.

The person responsible for a derelict boat is the last registered owner, she said.

"People have good intentions..." Bellis said. "They just don't have the resources to follow their dreams."