Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I was all set to blog about jellyfish, sea turtles, and the plastic bag ban when this article about housebarges appeared in the Capital. Links to articles in the paper expire in 30 days unless you access them from a library, so I'll try to summarize: the article is about the growing popularity of houseboats and the controversy over whether they are allowed in Annapolis. Current zoning is very restrictive, the manufacturer wants to have "discussions" with the City. Similar discussions are popping up in a lot of places, like this NY Times article : "Houseboats Emerge as a Cheaper Form of Housing" The manufacturer's spin on them is here Note that they're billed as "cheap waterfront living" NOT as boats. If your 3-year-old nephew saw one, he wouldn't say "Oh, look at the pretty boat." Nor would your Aunt Betty from Kansas. And that's my point.

Those barges? They look to me like doublewides on pontoons. And despite the manufacturer's claim, they aren't boats - can you imagine being in even mild waves in one of them? It is generally accepted that they don't move often, if at all. There are waiting lists for boat slips at many marinas here for recreational boats - do we really want to further decrease the opportunities?

I'll admit to my obvious prejudice - I live aboard because I love boating. The waterfront view and the community are tremendous plusses, but most of all I live this way simply because I like to sail. Most of all I think what offends me is this: Annapolis has tried hard to preserve its maritime heritage and feel. Enterprise zones to encourage marine industries to stay on the waterfront instead of ripping out marinas to replace them with endless condos. These housebarges impress me as a disrespectful way of trying to do an end run around that zoning.

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