The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: ‘Art barge’ lacks visual appeal for some neighbors

Artist Bill DeBilzan’s barge was moved to this private dock south of the Ocean Avenue Bridge in Lantana in late March.
DeBilzan said he would leave it there temporarily until he decided where to move the barge. Willie Howard/The Coastal Star

By Willie Howard

Delray Beach artist Bill DeBilzan likes the water and boats.
Some of his colorful abstract paintings, displayed at his gallery on East Atlantic Avenue, have Caribbean themes.
In 2014, DeBilzan built a two-story “art barge” and anchored it near Peanut Island.
DeBilzan moved his tiki-style art barge south to Delray Beach. He anchored it in the C-15 canal, then moved it in December to the sea wall along Marine Way just north of the city marina.
Then, around March 26, DeBilzan moved his barge north to a private dock in Lantana, temporarily, to end the complaints he was getting about the barge in Delray Beach.
“There’s no rules being broken,” DeBilzan said. “But everywhere you go you get complainers.”
Some waterfront homeowners in Delray Beach complained to city officials about the two-story, 60-by-20-foot barge.
“It’s an eyesore,” Roger Cope, vice president of the Marina Historic District Homeowners Association, said before the barge was moved to Lantana.
Cope said the two-story barge blocked the view of the water from homes and condos overlooking the marina.
Cope, who owns two properties in the Marina Historic District, said he saw and heard an old man working on the entrance gate and dock leading to the barge. He said the man left piles of debris on the street for the city to pick up.
Cope said he has nothing against DeBilzan, noting that he owns two of the artist’s paintings, but he said the tiki barge has no place in the Marina Historic District.
“It was cute and laughable at first,” Cope said. “Then it became an embarrassment.”
Delray Beach’s code enforcement administrator, Danise Cleckley, said in mid-March that the city was doing research on what, if any, action it could take regarding the art barge, which is in state waters and not subject to the same rules as buildings on land.
“We’re still doing our research,” Cleckley said, adding that her office contacted the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard about the barge.
Dan Sloan, secretary of Delray Beach’s Marina Historic District HOA, said he doesn’t think the city could do anything to regulate DeBilzan’s barge because it’s in state waters.
“I don’t think the city has any jurisdiction over it,” Sloan said.
DeBilzan said he checked with the FWC before tying up the barge on the Marine Way sea wall near his house.
DeBilzan said he does not rent out the barge, that he removes its sewage using the pump-out station near the marina and noted that its foundation — foam-filled concrete floating docks — make it stable. He said one corner of the barge was bent down after it was wedged under a dock on a rising tide.
“I welcome anyone to come out and inspect it,” DeBilzan said. “I’ve been through four hurricanes on it. It’s very heavy, and it’s very well-built.”
DeBilzan has a second art barge — recognizable by his colorful paintings displayed around its windows — that he keeps near Peanut Island.
DeBilzan moved that barge north of the Blue Heron Bridge in late March to the waters off Munyon Island.

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