The following is a personal statement about the
defeat of the Harbor and Waterfront Ordinance. It has not been approved
by the town or the committee.
Town Meeting is over, and much to the surprise of
the Harbor and Waterfront Committee its proposed ordinance changes were
resoundingly defeated. The committee went over the proposal several
times looking for issues that might cause people pause. But, in the end,
the committee concluded that we had not really changed anything much
that would cause any difficulty.
The committee’s plan was to re-write the
ordinance for the 2007 town meeting with the goal of only changing the
items that needed changing for the Harbormaster to efficiently and
fairly organize mooring space for those who asked for it. When the
ordinance was approved by town meeting, we would begin work on a Harbor
Management Plan, which we saw as a water version of the Comprehensive
Plan. After a community discussion about any contentious issues that
might be in the plan, we planned to again revise the ordinance. Clearly
our plan was wishful thinking.
Our first surprise came when, unlike with the
other ordinances, the selectmen did not call on a staff member to
introduce and explain the changes to the ordinance. Harbormaster Jim
Hays, with some help from the committee, had spent considerable time
preparing some introductory remarks. In retrospect, I guess he could
have made them anyway, but that’s not the way it seemed at the time.
The first speaker, Gordon Weil, quoted from the ordinance as
5.1.7 With the exception of occasional use moorings
as set forth in Section 5.2.5, rental moorings as set forth in Section
5.2.6 and service moorings as set forth in Section 5.2.7, all registered
moorings shall be used solely and exclusively for the personal use of
the registrant and solely and exclusively for the vessel listed on the
He went on to say, “so that you not only have
to register the mooring, but connected with it is a specific vessel.”
The speaker must have been unaware that moorings are already connected
with specific boats under the current ordinance and that is why the
registration application asks for the name and other information about
the boat connected with the application.
Furthermore, I quote the following from Statute
38, the Maine state law covering moorings.
In all harbors wherein channel lines have been
established by the municipal officers, as provided in section 2, and
in all other coastal and tidal waters, harbors and great ponds where
mooring rights of individuals are claimed to be invaded and
protection is sought of the harbor master, the harbor
master shall assign and indicate only to the masters or owners of
boats and vessels the location that they may occupy for mooring
purposes and shall change the location of those moorings from time
to time when the crowded condition of that harbor or great pond, the
need to conform to section 7-A or other conditions render the change
The speaker had other comments relating to
vessels using moorings temporarily such as the length of the vessel, and
the five day limit. These were conditions, among others that were added
to the ordinance by the lawyer or by the Selectmen. There is a safety
issue with boats on other people’s moorings. I know the Corps of
Engineers does not recommend and most towns do not even allow rental
moorings except in marinas. In any case a quick call to the
Harbormaster’s office could resolve this issue. The speaker’s solution
of saying that someone (the harbormaster?) needs to determine the
maximum size boat for a mooring, is a unwieldy and puts far too much
responsibility and time on the Harbormaster as well as opening up the
town to liability concerns. If anyone knows of a town that does not
connect moorings with specific boats, I would be interested.
The speaker also complained that if you bought a
new boat during the year, you would need to update your registration. Of
course you would, just as you have to update your car registration. It
does not seem unduly burdensome to me to expect people to keep the
Harbormaster informed of changes in their mooring status. It is expected
in most, if not all, towns.
The next speaker, Jim Knight, had three objections, all of
which missed the mark in my opinion. First, he said that the
Harbormaster should not be allowed to close harbors, because this would
be too much power in Harbormaster’s hands. Instead this should be a
responsibility of the Selectmen. The fact is that the Harbormaster has
had the responsibility of closing harbors, or starting the wait list
which is the same thing, for at least the last ten years. Brian Soper
closed Mackerel Cove many years ago. Article 8 of Statute 38 clearly
allows Harbormaster to close harbors.
Whenever there are more applicants for a mooring
assignment than there are mooring spaces available, the harbor
master or other town official shall create a waiting list. The town
officials shall work out a reasonable procedure for persons to add
their names to this list. The procedure shall be posted in a public
place. The list shall be considered a public document under the
freedom of access law.
The speaker’s second objection concerned the
possibility that the Harbormaster (or town clerk) could ask everyone to
resubmit their application if they so chose. The original proposal we
submitted to the Selectmen said nothing about renewals. The committee
planned to discuss renewals for the second revision. The lawyer added
something about renewing every year, and the town office changed it to
what it says below.
Applicants for a renewal mooring registration need
only submit a new completed application form to the Town Clerk if
there are any changes to the registration from the prior year or at
the request of the Town Clerk or Harbormaster.
As far as I know the Town Clerk or Harbormaster
could request new mooring applications with or without this clause in
the Harbor Waterfront Ordinance. Its existence in an ordinance does not
affect the ability of the Harbormaster to request new applications.
Furthermore, requesting new applications would require considerable time
on the part of both the Town Clerk and the Harbormaster. It is unlikely
to happen unless it is very important.
Third, the speaker objected to the clause, “No
mooring shall be used as a rental mooring without the prior written
approval of both the Harbormaster and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
He stated that requiring prior written approval “made him tantamount
to God.” That is, at best, a very strange statement.
This clause replaced the following in the old
“No registration of any rental mooring shall be
effected without proof that an Army Corps
Permit has been issued in
the name of the applicant for registration; and where such
is pending, registration by the Town shall be temporary pending final Army
Under both the new and the old ordinance rental
moorings require the approval of both the Harbormaster and the Corps of
Engineers. The Corps of Engineers will not approve rental moorings
without prior approval of the Harbormaster.
The third speaker, Alan Shaver, was concerned that the new
ordinance would not allow yacht clubs to give visitors a temporary
mooring. The new ordinance provides for service moorings, which the
current ordinance does not. Service moorings fill exactly the need of a
yacht club to provide visitor moorings. His concern about providing GPS
coordinates was also misplaced since the proposed ordinance specifically
says “GPS, if available.”
I admit to being very confused about why the
ordinance was defeated so thoroughly. As the reader can see from reading
the above, the concerns expressed at town meeting seem to me to be
incorrect. I would very much appreciate anyone who can help me
understand what is going on. You may email me (see above) or call me at