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CorneliusNews.net: Committee Aims To Standardize Lake Norman Rental-Boat Safety Rules

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The Lake Norman Marine Commission rental boats subcommittee met for the first time last week, and aims to offer commissioners a formal recommendation for standardizing boat rental rules within the next three or four months. Rental-boat safety is at issue in part because of an accident on Lake Norman last June that severely injured a Charlotte woman. At the Marine Commission meeting last Sept. 12, several boat-rental company owners told the commission they support better enforcement of existing safety rules, but they were concerned new rules would hurt business. Many of those owners now are serving on the rental boat committee. In 2009 the state General Assembly enacted legislation that requires boaters under the age of 26 to complete a National Association of Safe Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) boating safety course. But that legislation, which took effect in May 2010, does not apply to renters. The marine commission on Feb. 13 appointed Catawba County representative John Marino to chair a new committee of volunteers charged with developing a set of standard rules and guidelines for renters and rental companies. "The people from the rental boat companies were extremely interested and wanted to do the right thing," Mr. Marino said. Thirteen volunteers met as a committee on Thursday, March 8, including rental company owners Dustin Keith, of Aquaventure Watercraft Rentals and Boat Club; Doug Herr, of Carolina Boat Rentals of Cornelius; Lowry Hobbs, of Westport Marina; John Carney, of Lake Effects; Bill Young, of Morningstar Marinas at Kings Point; and Rozlin Zollner, of Lake Pontoons, as well as three Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department lake patrol officers. Commissioners are not looking to add new rules, but to standardize requirements so that boaters remain safe and the rental business remains good, Commission Chair Ron Shoultz said at Monday's Lake Norman Marine Commission meeting. When they met last Thursday, committee members split up into groups to research different topics, including the current practices in boater safety education for renters. The committee also will look to define what counts as a rental boat, Mr. Marino explained - for example, if a person rents a vacation home and that rental includes access to the homeowner's boat, is that a rental boat? he said. The committee will identify what Lake Norman rental companies are currently doing, what they believe they should be doing, and ways to standardize and regulate those requirements. There are no hard deadlines for the rental boat committee's recommendations, but commissioners expect the committee will have something to present to the commission in early summer. Then, the commissioners will review the recommendations and if they require a change in ordinance, will proceed to plan a public hearing - possibly in later summer / early fall, and after the hearing, the recommendations would be put to a vote. "I've attended a lot of meetings over the years, and this was one of the best I've ever attended," Mr. Marino said. "Everyone was so positive, and there was no paucity of ideas." RELATED LINKS March 1, 2012: "New committee to develop rules for boat rentals" Sept. 13, 2011: "Boat rental companies oppose local rules for renters"