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Dock Fight - Billionaire Fights to Keep His 146-Foot Yacht at Home

A billionaire's battle with a small town is pushing the limitations of docking privileges.

The Palm Beach Post is following the story of Michael Bozutto versus the Village of West Palm Beach, a case that calls into question two major issues.

The first is where the limitations lie with local governments with respect to bylaw enforcement and access to waterways.

The second is 'how big is too big' when it comes to docking your boat at home in a waterfront community.

Enter Michael Bozzuto, a longstanding North Palm Beach resident and boating afficionado who's well known for his love of yachts. He's lived in the community for 20 years.

Bozzuto is the owner of a family-owned supermarket wholesale business in Connecticut named Bozzuto's Inc. The company distributes food and grocery products to retailers in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

His house in the small community of Palm Beach County is where he's been docking his 146-foot superyacht Honey for the last several years.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the house at 932 Shore Drive is a one-story, ranch-style property with three bedrooms on a half-acre lot. Bozzuto purchased the house in 2014 for $840,000.

Its uniqueness is its layout -- the property is a rare corner lot with waterfront on both the north and east sides. It provides access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Lake Worth Inlet, and the east-facing dock can accommodate Bozzuto's massive yacht.

Despite Bozzuto owning four other properties in the village, he's been parking Honey at the Shore Drive house instead of at its previous moorage at Old Port Cove Marina, where it was parked next to Tiger Woods' 155-foot superyacht Privacy.

According to the Post, while Bozzuto keeps some personal property at the Shore Drive house, he lives at a house at Harbour Isles Court, about a mile away.

The issue goes back as far as 2017, when mayor Darryl Aubrey commented on the drama during a village council meeting. The comment is part of Bozzuto's complaint.

"When I didn't live here full time, I had a boat sitting in my dock, I was gone nine months of the year. I don't see how you can say that someone has to be in a residence year-round, seems to be some interpretation of occupant, there would be an enormous number of violations," Aubrey said, according to the Post.

Another member of the village council recently asked if the village had devised a proper definition for "occupied."

Leonard Rubin, the village attorney, replied: "No, we don't," according to the lawsuit.

Village officials claim Bozzuto can't park Honey at 932 Shore Drive because regulations state boats can only be parked on docks behind houses that are "occupied" by the homeowner.

The crux of the issue, according to Bozzuto and his lawyers, is that the legislation doesn't define what constitutes "occupied." It does not state that "occupied" refers to someone living in the home full-time, and it also does not list any restrictions about the size of boats that can be moored next to homes.

After much back and forth, Bozzuto filed a lawsuit in March, alleging that the municipality is denying his property rights because nothing in the village code states he's broken any rules. The lawsuit also asks a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge to rule that he has a constitutional right to dock Honey at his dock on Shore Drive.

According to the Post, Gregory Coleman, Bozzuto's attorney and a former president of the Florida Bar, says the village has many waterfront homes where owners dock their boats, but the village is illegally blocking Bozzuto from docking Honey at his house because they are under pressure from neighbors who think the boat is too big.

"He's a very under-the-radar guy who doesn't cause anybody any problems," Coleman told the Post. "He pays his property taxes, and he wants to be left alone by the village of North Palm Beach. Unfortunately, they are singling Mike out."

The issue is becoming an increasingly common one as Florida's boating community has surged in size in the last several years. A massive influx of wealthy new homeowners and yacht owners has moved into the area, which means an increasing pressure among communities and their local governments to curtail issues surrounding waterfront property.

A similar saga is currently unfolding in Biscayne Bay as a homeowner with a unique 'boat' is battling Miami-Dade County about its legal status as a vessel and how that may, or may not, violate waterfront property rights.

Another case out of Fort Lauderdale is seeking to clarify insurance standards with large yachts and their policy protections.

Bizzuto's lawsuit is currently set to proceed with the Palm Beach County Circuit Court. #news #culture

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