A Palm Beach marina is suing its neighbour marina over plans to enlarge its dock space for larger boats. Buccaneer Marina on Palm Beach Shores, Florida, is suing Sailfish Marina after Sailfish gained a permit from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that will allow it to expand one of its docks.

In the lawsuit, Buccaneer contends that Sailfish is “illegally” extended too far into the channel and that a further expansion would cause navigational hazards for smaller boats using its marina. Sailfish Marina wants to expand one of its docks to accommodate boats up to 70ft.

"We're the little guys," Richard Bright, dock master of the Buccaneer Marina, told WTVP, adding that Sailfish will see greater revenues from the expansion. “The bigger the boat, the more dockage income," Bright told the station. "If they go to the bigger boats, it's going to kick a lot of us out."

The legal documents also said that the expansion would cause a navigational hazard in a channel that is known for extreme currents and winds. “We have a current and a wind, with a guy trying to move a boat in and out. I mean it becomes treacherous in this narrow situation," he said.

Sailfish has also been the benefactor of public funds. In 2006, at a period where marinas were being sold to condominium developers, Palm Beach County gave US$15m to Sailfish with the condition that they maintain public access on their waterfront. ”They're going to accommodate larger boats, which is members of the public, but you have to be a very wealthy member of the public to have that boat," said Palm Beach County commissioner Hal Valeche, whose district includes Palm Beach Shores.

The agreement states that Sailfish’s North Dock and Charter Dock be open to the public. "Honestly, I wasn't on the commission then but when we created the easement, I don't think we were very specific about what Sailfish could do with that," said Valeche. "Unfortunately, we're coming to the same conclusion, I hate to say that. Because my own sentiments are with the people at Buccaneer, the other marinas and the public.”

Sailfish was granted a similar expansion permit last year but withdrew after similar public outcry. Valeche called for a public meeting to see if some sort of compromise can take place.

Sailfish Marina has not responded yet to the legal complaint and did not comment to the television station. It is owned by American Life Insurance, a subsidiary of American Financial Group based in Ohio.