Selectmen may extend mooring moratorium

By Susan Mustapich | Feb 09, 2019

Lincolnville — A 180-day extension to the current moratorium on inland waterway moorings has been recommended to Lincolnville selectmen. The additional 6 months will allow time to draft an ordinance to regulate the moorings.

A public vote is required to extend the moratorium, which was suggested Jan. 28 by Jay Foster, chairman of the town's Inland Waterway Committee.

Foster reported to the Board of Selectmen on the committee's progress since its inception in September. He noted that he has reviewed the committee's work with Town Administrator David Kinney and Inland Harbormaster Justin Twitchell.

Foster said the committee could not identify any existing problems with moorings in Lincolnville's lakes and ponds, but determined there are areas where problems could arise. While there are no moorings in the narrows, which connect Norton's Pond in Lincolnville with Lake Megunticook, moorings placed there could cause a hazard to navigation, he said. A property near the Camden town line with three or more moorings used to access Fang Island is another concern, Foster said.

State law MRSA 38 provides key regulations — one mooring is allowed for an inland waterfront property with a minimum of 100 feet of shore frontage, and the mooring must be placed within 200 feet of the shoreline. Under this law, a harbormaster has the authority to relocate or remove a mooring. The state does not regulate moorings, but leaves that up to municipalities, Foster said.

Responding to a question from Selectman Keryn Laite, Foster explained that the single mooring can be used for a boat, a float or a ramp. Moorings must be anchored to the bottom of the lake or pond, he said, and state law stipulates what a mooring is and is not. For example, Foster said a mooring can be a concrete block with a chain attached — but an engine block dropped into the water with a chain attached cannot be used as a mooring.

He outlined three options for regulating inland waterway moorings. Option one is to do nothing, because, he said, there is no driving reason to have an ordinance or regulations.

The second option, which Foster said the committee favors, would create a minimum regulatory ordinance that would allow one mooring per property owner, according to state law, without requiring a permit or fee, and with complaint-driven enforcement if there is a problem with navigation or safety. Twitchell also agrees with this approach, Foster said.

The third option is to create an ordinance with published standards, permitting and fees for moorings, defined mooring fields, and full authority given to the harbormaster "to do what he needed to do," Foster said. A possible reason for choosing this option would be to protect Breezemere Park, the town's sole waterfront property, he said.

In recommending option two, Foster said the committee shares the opinion "that there is a reason to have minimum regulations, to give the inland harbormaster something to work with if there is a problem."

The committee suggested the ordinance create a water safety zone from the property line to the 200-foot mark. The committee also suggested creating two exclusionary zones where moorings will not be allowed — in the narrows and at Breezemere Park, Foster said. The narrows are not wide enough for moorings to be placed without impeding navigation and safety, Foster explained. Twitchell also agrees with this, he said.

Breezemere Park has a public swimming ramp and a boat-launching ramp that must have a navigable channel beyond the water safety zone. It also has a float 50 feet from shore, which is used by the boat club to store its boats. There is no room for moorings in that area, Foster said.

Regarding the property with multiple moorings near Fang Island, the committee recommends it be allowed to continue with written permission of the property owner.

Foster said the committee "sees no reason to create a problem" but the situation has to be addressed "because it runs afoul of Title 38." He said a property near Crane Island also should be addressed.

The Board of Selectmen could extend the current 180-day moratorium, but the final decision falls to voters. Kinney noted there must be a public hearing and said selectmen must decide if two criteria for extending the moratorium have been met: that the problem still exists, and that there has been a diligent effort to address it, but that the effort is not yet complete.

The committee has made significant progress on the timeline set by the board, and has the information it needs to go ahead with regulations, according to Foster. "The extension would give us time to draft, run it by the town attorney and get it on the ballot in June," he said.

Board Chairman Ladleah Dunn asked if members of the Inland Waterway Committee had reached out to the town of Camden, and if Camden appointed someone to sit on Lincolnville's committee.

Kinney said the town has reached out to Camden, Hope and Searsmont, but none of the towns have appointed representatives to Lincolnville's committee. Paul Leeper, executive director of the Megunticook Lake Association, is attending Lincolnville's meetings, he said. Leeper is also a member of an Inland Waterway Committee recently formed in Camden.

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