Worcester Eyes Stiff Penalty For Boat Slip Violators

SNOW HILL — Loaning your boat slip to a friend in Worcester County just became riskier, due to the County Commissioners approving a new penalty for license holders who allow unauthorized boats to occupy their slip.

“We need to do something to grab their attention,” said County Attorney Sonny Bloxom.

Bloxom proposed a two- or three-year ban on a license holder if they are found in violation of allowing unauthorized craft in their slip. According to Bloxom, without a tough penalty in place, the county is often being ignored when they attempt to enforce the rules.

“We have problems getting them to comply or even responding to us,” he wrote in a letter to the commission. “We have had to use the Sheriff’s Department upon occasion to try to get compliance.”

Besides being ignored by the boat owners illegally using a slip licensed to someone else, Bloxom noted that the license holders themselves could become elusive when the county comes calling.

“They disappear and we can’t get a hold of them,” he told the commission.

Under the current code, Bloxom emphasized that the county’s only real option for combating slip abuse is to go straight to criminal charges, a power that is rarely exercised.
“Short of filing trespass charges against the offending boats,” he wrote, “we have very few options we can use to force compliance.”

The main concern when a slip is used illegally, continued Bloxom, is the question of liability in case of accident.

“We are especially concerned about unauthorized boats using the slips,” he wrote, “and not having the proper insurance in case of a sinking or fire.”

Bloxom added at this week’s, “You see the liability that’s out there.”

The commissioners unanimously supported the idea of stricter penalties for violators of slip license agreements, but were in favor of only a two-year ban as opposed to a three-year ban. Several, including Commissioner Louise Gulyas and Judy Boggs, expressed worry over how drastic a two-year automatic ban would be.

Bloxom advised adding a clause into the new law that would allow violators who believe they have justifiable or mitigating circumstances for violating their license to appear before the commission in person to request “mercy,” allowing them the potential to get the two-year ban waived or at least reduced.