Harbor panel approves revised ordinance
In a meeting that sported lively but not contentious debate, the Harbor Commission voted to accept the revised Harbor Management Ordinance (HMO) and the budget reorganization. The ordinance will now be sent to the Town Council for final approval.
The two-hour meeting resembled an open forum and included constructive and substantial input from the majority of the six interested attendees. The motion carried 5 to 1. Commissioners Edward McGuirl, Chris Brown, Susan Little, Michael deAngeli and David Cain voted in favor, while Lawrence Eichler was the lone commissioner to vote against.
Pat Bolger, a former Harbor Commissioner chairman, spoke extensively regarding his view that the current “two-budget system” is the result of changes made to the budgeting process following a now defunct and unresolved lawsuit and the subsequent “infiltration” of members of the Concerned Boaters Group onto the commission in 2002.
Bolger said that the budgetstructure changes made by the 2002 Harbor Commission resulted in a dramatic drop in mooring fees. As recorded in the Oct. 13 Harbor Commission meeting minutes, Bolger said that the 2002 Harbor Commission decreased mooring fees by “using lease fees to subsidize the mooring fees.”
Infrastructure expenses were previously funded by “lease monies, and 50 percent of the non-resident mooring fees,” according to Bolger. He explained that a return to the previous budget structure would insure that non-residents and leases would be more precisely connected to funding the costs of the infrastructure that serves those parties directly.
Further, Bolger said, a return to the former budget-structure would allow infrastructure funds to accumulate over time better enabling the town to address sometimes unpredictable infrastructure needs as they arise.
Bolger said that the end result of the budget-structure changes would be a per-foot cost mooring fee of $5.75 to $6.00 or approximately $1 a day over the course of a year and a rate that is well within the range of fees in surrounding towns.
A full and open discussion fol- lowed. McGuirl said that outhaul permit holders, particularly the 22 users at Fort Getty find that “equity is a concern.” He added that while mooring rates decreased in 2002, outhaul rates did not and that’s “not fair.”
Brown recommended “more flexibility” in the pricing plan, suggesting that language that permits transfers up to 20 percent provides the necessary flexibility.
Commissioner Cain said that “going forward we need to embrace the terms that Coastal Marine Resource Committee uses, fair, reasonable and equitable,” when determining the fee structure.
Bob Bowen, the Town Council liaison, asked the Commission to acknowledge that there are really two issues on the table: the fee structure and the annual percentage of the infrastructure transfer. Referring to a letter from Vice Chairman Andrew Kallfelz, who was unable to attend the meeting, Bowen said “don’t put the artifi- cial [transfer] limit in the ordinance.”
Bowen pointed out that, despite increases over time, the fees have not yet reached the level that had been established prior to the 2003 reduction of mooring fees.
According to Harbor Clerk Kimberly Devlin, mooring rates from 2000-2002 were $4 per foot, and today they are $3.35 per foot.
deAngeli expressed concern over the percentage increase that the shift would require, adding that people will not be focused on the commission’s efforts to “correct [previous] mistakes” as Bowen put it, but instead will focus entirely on the increase.
deAngeli offered a final pitch for the status quo saying, “The current structure is working well,” and there is no reason for a major change.
Discussion over, deAngeli told the commission that there were many options on the table and he asked them how they would like to proceed.
Bucky Brennan, a mooring holder, said that he did not oppose a rate hike, but added, “I should get what I am paying for.” He asked the commission to acknowledge that there “may be some pain” but that the commission needs to “make some tough decisions.”
Little recommended that once the Commission defines the revenues, and the mooring fees structure will set itself. She offered “wording that reflected Bolger’s recommendation.” Little moved to revise the section to include the following language: “Revenues from Resident mooring fees, wait list fees, and one half of the non resident private club and mooring fees shall be held in a segregated Harbor management [operations] account maintained by the Town Finance Department.”
Little further recommended that the following language be added to the subsequent paragraph in the same section to read as follows: “The Harbor/Waterfront Facilities Capital Account is funded by all Town Lease income from Town-owned waterfront land and facilities, including but not limited to outhaul fees and beach permits, plus one half of the non-resident private and commercial mooring fees. Such revenues shall be maintained by the town Finance Department in a Capital Improvement account for land-side harbor and waterfront facilities.”
(The proposed language replaces the third and fourth sentence in the first paragraph and the second sentence of the second paragraph of the “Finances/Budget” section of the current HMO.)
The changes to the HMO were adopted by the commission by a 4-2 vote. Commissioners deAngeli, Little, Cain and McGuirl voted in favor, while Brown and Eichler voted against.
The final 2011 mooring fees were not established and the deAngeli pointed out the need for the budget to be reformatted to refl ect the changes in the ordinance and the budget structure.
Other business conducted at the meeting included a presentation of wording considerations for the management plan by Little, a discussion regarding the accuracy of latitude and longitude coordinates for moorings in the database, and a substantive discussion regarding current discrepancies regarding boat-storage permits on town- owned land.
Unanimous votes passed motions to amend the appeals section of the HMO to reflect a executive director-first approach followed by a right of appeal to the town administrator, and to limit the temporary use of a mooring to one season, thereby preventing temporary users from occupying boatless moorings while the mooring waitlist stagnates.
The next meeting of the Harbor Commission is scheduled for Dec. 8.