Beaufort County officials apparently see no need to change or stop commercial use of the county's public boat landings, especially on Hilton Head Island.
Instead, County Council's Public Facilities Committee recommended at a meeting Tuesday that the Town of Hilton Head Island look at how business licenses are issued to commercial operators using the landings.
People have complained in recent months about water-sports and kayak tour operators at the landings, particularly at the landing near the Cross Island Parkway bridge.
The complaints raised questions about whether commercial users cause problems for other people wanting to use the landings. Are these operations creating trouble with parking or launching boats at the publicly owned facilities?
County public works director Eddie Bellamy said Tuesday that his department's look into the issue found that commercial use hadn't compromised the public's ability to use the landings recreationally.
Despite his report of no problems, Bellamy did leave open the possibility that recreational use might be hampered by commercial users.
"We're not seeing the problems that they're talking about, but I don't doubt that they're there," he said.
That suggests that if the county wants to be sure commercial users -- or any other users -- aren't causing problems, public works employees need to get out to the landings often enough and long enough to enforce the rules.
(The public landings and docks fall under their bailiwick, according to the ordinance.) Violations can bring a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $1,000 or 30 days in jail.
Short of that or prohibiting commercial use, little will change.
Is that what the public wants?
The business license suggestion came after competitors, who operate out of privately owned marinas and pay dock fees and commissions, complained that some operators were advertising that they launched their tours from the public landings.
They also complained that by avoiding marinas, their competitors could avoid the expense of inspections, licensing and insurance requirements.
County attorney Josh Gruber suggested the committee recommend that Hilton Head review its business license process to try to prevent people from using the public landing as a business address.
But changing a business address, as those complaining pointed out, wouldn't change commercial use of the landings.
The county ordinance governing public boat landings specifically allows such use. Those who operate there are supposed to manage their launching and unloading operations so that other people wanting to use the landing don't have to wait more than 15 minutes.
Inspections, licensing and insurance for these types of businesses is a whole different issue and one we suspect neither the town nor the county is prepared to take on.