2011-06-16 / Front Page

Residents appeal mooring-permit forfeitures

By Tracey O’Neill

The Harbor Management Commission addressed the appeals of 19 concerned mooring permit holders during Monday’s meeting. The permit holders were on hand during the June 13 meeting to respond to notices they received stating that they would have to forfeit their moorings.

Responding to the executive director’s notice of possible forfeiture, the mooring holders waited calmly in anticipation of the commission’s decision on how the appeals would be heard. The commission quickly moved through its regular agenda due to the number of appellants in the gallery.

Opting to allow each individual a hearing, the commission listened as residents, attorneys and representatives took turns at the podium. At issue was non-compliance with Section 6 of the Harbor Management Ordinance, pertaining to forfeiture of mooring space. The section in question states: “Any holder of a mooring permit for a mooring located in the coastal or harbor waters of the town shall be subject to forfeiture of that permit by reason of the following: Occupying a mooring with the vessel permitted for that mooring for a total of fewer than 14 days during the course of a season.”

Commissioner Susan Little responded to Vice Chairman Andrew Kallfelz’s suggestion that those who are not in compliance should be subject to forfeiture due to a waiting list with people who have been patient for 15 years. “I hate to take people’s moorings away,” she said, “but I do think its pretty much general knowledge. The ordinance is online. Everything is there.”

The time period in question encompasses the 2010 season. Approximately 27 such notices were issued in May via certified mail. Harbormaster Sam Paterson cautioned the commission about the difficulties in policing the 14- day requirement. “If the mooring holder says that they have had their boat on the mooring during the season for 14 days, I am not going to argue with them,” he said.

Most moorings in question were unoccupied due to extenuating circumstances. Several residents responded in writing that they were in compliance with the ordinance and did have their boats moored under the 14-day requirement. Those who appeared or responded in the affirmative had their appeals granted without issue.

Several retroactive temporary exemptions for the 2010 season were granted by the commission for reasons of medical hardship prohibiting the owners from putting their vessels in the water. Those mooring holders who had issues with vessels in disrepair or who were transitioning to a new vessel were cautioned that the temporary exemptions were only for 2010. Although they were not being forced to forfeit their moorings, they would have to have all their paperwork for the current season and be in compliance with any changes to the ordinance to take effect upon approval by the Town Council meeting on Monday, June 20.

Also of note was the proposed change to the Harbor Management Ordinance pertaining to harbor operations finances and budget allocations. The verbiage in question concerns disbursement of all revenues generated under the harbor management purview. The ordinance reads in part, “All revenues from harbor operations, including but not limited to mooring fees and harbor management fines, shall be held in a segregated harbor management account maintained by the town finance department.”

In prior review of the restrictive language, the commission recommended elimination of language limiting transfer of funds between harbor accounts, particularly between operations and infrastructure. Ordinance language, covenants and restrictions are presently being honed in anticipation of completion and inclusion in the comprehensive plan.

Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marine Services, questioned the changes to the language and expressed concern with the transfer of funds between accounts, although the new language is supportive of preventing account raiding for projects other than harbor. Speaking as to a possible solution in increasing the percentage of funds transferred from the harbor management account to the facilities account, Munger offered a historical perspective. “It is important, like back in [2002], when the same conversation blew up. At the end of the day, the wording is what we settled on for the last 10 years and it’s worked.”

In revisiting the language with Chairman Michael de Angeli and Kallfelz, it was generally agreed that the verbiage should include restrictions to allow the Harbor Commission to maintain control of the funds. Suggesting a modifi cation to some of the stricken language, Kallfelz recommended adding, “The harbor management account shall be maintained exclusively for the management and development of harbor management programs, harbor infrastructure and facilities.”

Supporting the proposed modifi cation and harbor exclusive nature, de Angeli motioned, “I would move that we recommend that the language be incorporated into the ordinance so that the Town Council can vote on it next Monday.”

In further recommendation for Monday’s meeting, de Angeli suggested that Munger put his concerns in writing and present them to the council at public hearing.

The next scheduled meeting of the Harbor Commission is set for July 13.

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