INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - A dispute over whether to set boat speed limits in the waters immediately near the residential areas of Indian Rocks Beach has resulted in an acrimonious exchange between a member of the City Commission and the chairman of the Intracoastal Waterway Committee.
What set off the nasty words was action taken at the commission's May 22 meeting when it was decided that speed limits on the canals would be reviewed by the ICW and perhaps by the Planning and Zoning Board as well.
This elicited a response from Bob Coplen, chairman of the ICW committee, last week to Danny Taylor, the city's planning director, members of the ICW committee and Steve Cottrell, interim city manager.
In his e-mail to Taylor, Coplen wrote, "We have reviewed the issue of idle boating speed limits ad infinitum. Our records reflect the information that . . . the waters are public and for use by all persons for all types of activities and the State of Florida prohibits municipalities from unilateraly imposing idle speed/no wake restrictions as it would eliminate the public's right to use the waterways for recreational activities."
He then pointed out that these "rights existed long before the municipalities existed."
As one observer pointed out, though, the waterways came into being only to create residential areas of the city so the argument "hardly holds water."
Coplen's e-mail then drew a response from Bert Valery, a commission member.
"I've read your response to Danny Taylor and I'm very disappointed with your apparent refusal to again look into the matter of controlling speeds in our bays and canals," Valery wrote.
Then the heat goes up with this statement by Valery - "If your 'ad infinitum' statement means you are refusing to pursue the matter, maybe you should rethink chairing this committee."
Valery then goes on to point out that there are still "loopholes that allow cities to control their waterways."
Valery suggests in his letter to Coplen that the city could look at "slow down/no wake" areas around Bird Islands and in the canals rather than "eliminate the public's right to use the waterways for recreational activities by making a citywide ban."
Further, Valery wrote, "It has also been suggested that we look into setting up a preferred water skiing area in the large bay north of Harbour Drive North and South . . . This would provide a much larger area for boats to go 'full speed' without the danger of doing so in our smaller bays and canals."
He finished with, "I do not agree that we have looked into 'safe speed limits in our waterways' ad infinitum. I will review the subject thoroughly, arrange to give the facts and recommendations to the City Commission and share my findings with you if you are still interested."
Apparently Coplen was having none of that. Valery's moderate approach was greeted with this by Coplen -
"Your letter is both inappropriate and an inaccurate interpretation of the English language. First your attempt to directly contact a city board member and use of veiled threats/intimidation is shameful. In fact your comment about my resigning as chairman of the (committee) is more appropriate to your position on the City Commission."
It goes on like that and then Coplen writes, "You have no knowledge of the facts that you have addressed and apparently do not care about facts or the law regarding the use of public waterways."
And then, "Your letter is nothing more than a vindictive attack on me and (the committee) and a continued attempt to pursue your personal agenda of a no wake zone ordinance (for the area behind your home) . . . I would hope that in the future you will learn to conduct yourself in a more professional manner when acting on behalf of the city and at least learn to properly educate yourself on any issue on which you take a position."