According to West Bloomfield Code Enforcement Director Erik Beauchamp, the township receives approximately 40-50 complaints per year about illegal boat and watercraft storage and parking.

According to West Bloomfield Code Enforcement Director Erik Beauchamp, the township receives approximately 40-50 complaints per year about illegal boat and watercraft storage and parking.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


After almost two years, complaints still arise over West Bloomfield boat storage ordinance

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 28, 2021

 According to West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan, “the board is confident that a vast majority of township residents do not want boats stored in driveways unless it’s in a lakefront area.”

According to West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan, “the board is confident that a vast majority of township residents do not want boats stored in driveways unless it’s in a lakefront area.”

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 According to West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan, resident complaints led to a township ordinance pertaining to the storage of recreational items on residential property.

According to West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan, resident complaints led to a township ordinance pertaining to the storage of recreational items on residential property.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — An ordinance pertaining to the storage of recreational items on residential property has gotten the attention of some township residents since it was adopted in May of 2019.

According to Code Enforcement Director Erik Beauchamp, the township receives approximately 40-50 complaints per year pertaining to illegal boat and watercraft storage and parking.

The township’s ordinance limits off-season outdoor storage of boats and watercraft to lots that abut a navigable watercourse and, for non-lakefront lot owners, residential lots that are located within a subdivision with officially recognized access to a navigable watercourse for boating purposes, as long as township approval has been received.

Both types of residential lot owners are permitted to store up to two boats and watercraft, along with their trailers during the off-season, which is Nov. 1-March 31, with the condition that they are owned by the property owner or tenant.

Lot owners are also allowed to have one licensed and operable boat or watercraft parked in their driveway during the boating season, which is April 1-Oct. 31.

The residents who are perhaps the least likely to be pleased with the ordinance are boat owners who don’t own a property with lake access.

But from the perspective of Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan, the ordinance that has been adopted is what best suits the majority of residents.

“Not all boats are maintained,” Kaplan said. “Some have a tarp on them, a nice tarp, and they’re well maintained, but some aren’t; some are rusted. So the typical resident who does not live in an area with lakeside privileges, that average resident does not (want to) see boats.”

In a Beacon article from 2019, a boat owner and Pine Lakes Estates resident expressed displeasure with the ordinance, stating that it reduced the value of his home to not allow summer storage in his driveway.

Kaplan said he understands the disappointment of some residents.

“There’s a convenience to being able to store it in your driveway or on the side of the house where it’s not shielded because you don’t have to pay money to a storage center, and it’s there immediately; you can hitch it up to your car,” he said. “So there’s a convenience factor, but it’s outweighed by what the residents, what the community wants in West Bloomfield. … This is a representative democracy, but the board is confident that a vast majority of township residents do not want boats stored in driveways unless it’s in a lakefront area.”

Despite his support for the ordinance, Kaplan isn’t advocating strict enforcement of it unless the township gets a complaint.

“We are not proactive at enforcing this ordinance,” he said. “In other words, (if) you live on a block, maybe you’re in a cul-de-sac, and you have a boat in your driveway, if nobody calls us, we’re not acting.”

Even with a lack of actively seeking violations, when the ordinance is violated, Kaplan expects complaints to be forthcoming.

“Having a boat in the driveway or on the side of a house in an area not featuring any lakes just doesn’t fit,” he said. “Think about if you live across the street or next door, and every morning you see that boat there. We’re not talking about a tricycle.”

Beauchamp shared the process of what happens when the township receives a complaint.

“We first visit the property to verify if a violation exists,” he wrote via email. “A compliance re-check is conducted approximately one week from the initial visit. If violation remains, a code compliance letter is sent with a deadline to correct the issue. If violation still remains, a citation may be issued or a final code compliance letter is sent, (depending) on the circumstances of the case.”

Non-compliance constitutes a civil infraction, with a $100 fine for a first offense and a $200 fine for a second offense.

Reactions from residents can vary.

“Some residents are unaware of our ordinance and willingly comply; others have been unhappy,” Beauchamp stated. “The township attempts to work with our residents to reach compliance. Citations are always a last resort to reach that goal.”

Despite not keeping track of the number of citations specifically related to the storage of lake-related items, according to Beauchamp, “Our department issued a total of 61 citations for all of our enforcement cases for 2020.”

Kaplan recalled that it was complaints from residents that led to the adoption of the ordinance in the first place.

“It all emanates from the township deciding to review and reverse its ordinances, mainly against blight,” he said. “This subject came up about boats. There were residents who complained. They said, ‘If I want a boat, I’ll buy a boat and live near a lake.’ So it was more our residents not wanting boats in non-lakefront, lake access areas.”

Kaplan said he understands the improbability of township ordinances pleasing everybody all the time.

“If everybody were happy, everybody complied and everybody recognized boats are not conducive for non-lakefront, non-lake access (areas), you wouldn’t have anybody storing a boat on the side of his house or on the driveway,” he said. “But most residents, they’re reasonable, rational and compliant because they (want to) maintain property values.”

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