2014-04-17 / News

Harbor opposes council recommendations

By Margo Sullivan

The harbor commissioners will oppose a bid by the Town Council to take away the lease money currently used for waterfront repairs and maintenance, Chairman Michael de Angeli said at the commission’s April 9 meeting.

The commissioners may also challenge the change in language by the state’s coastal council to the local harbor management ordinance and harbor comprehensive plan, they indicated.

Jamestown’s ordinance won a conditional one-year approval last year by the Coastal Resources Management Council, but the approval is expiring.

Earlier, the council had advertised amendments to the documents for an April 7 public hearing, but then opted to send both back to the Harbor Commission after the CRMC presented lastminute changes, which the commissioners had not had an opportunity to review.

Moreover, Councilor Mary Meagher at the council’s April 7 meeting recommended other changes.

“Are you clear on what she wanted?” de Angeli asked police Chief Ed Mello.

“The suggested direction was the lease funds would be committed to the town in the general fund, not specifically to the Harbor Commission,” Mello said.

“Well, I’m not going to agree to that,” de Angeli said. “It never comes back.”

Once money goes into the general fund, he explained, the councilors will not be inclined to allocate those funds for harbor projects.

Commissioner Patrick Bolger agreed.

“It clearly just changes your total facilities budget,” he said. “You don’t have any revenue. It is a big change.”

De Angeli asked Mello how he had responded to Meagher. Mello said he attempted to clarify how a capital project would move forward under her recommendation.

“I was trying to hear,” de Angeli said, indicating that the exchange between Meagher and Mello had been difficult to follow.

Commissioner David Cain said he also wanted to know Meagher’s direction.

“We really need that revenue stream,” he said. “One of the things we have to guard is the public safety. I just don’t think there’s good follow-through in this line of thinking. We ought to explore it further.”

Bolger said the Town Council has been diverting money away from the Harbor Commission, and he sees the trend continuing. In his view, the reason is due to suspicions that the commissioners are using harbor funds to keep mooring rates below market. Until the mooring fees go up and are in line with the rates other communities charge, he said, the councilors are going to go after harbor revenues. Ultimately, Bolger predicted, the council will take all the harbor money and “treat it like any other department, like zoning or planning.”

Mello allowed Meagher’s proposal “is a major change.” But she also suggested several other changes, and Mello agreed to meet with de Angeli to go over the specifics.

Meagher also wanted the comprehensive plan to include specific reference to the asset inventory plan, Mello said. She also asked for a minor change to the rules on how commissioners are to be selected.

“That’s harmless,” de Angeli said, indicating he would agree to those two recommendations.

In a related matter, the commissioners decided to invite CRMC’s Kevin Cute to an upcoming meeting to discuss his last-minute changes, which posed problems for the commissioners.

Mello had met with Cute on April 4.

“How did your meeting with Kevin go?” de Angeli asked Mello. “You were pretty annoyed at first. Did he schmooze you?”

“He did remind me this was language we had talked about a year ago when he issued the conditional one-year approval,” Mello said. The understanding, according to Mello, was that the commissioners would continue to work on the language during the year.

As Mello began to detail some of the changes, the commissioners objected to the state’s attempt to imply that the public would have access to moorings when, in reality, the moorings on private rightsof way would be inaccessible.

“You can’t open it to the general public,” Bolger said. “It cannot be. CRMC doesn’t overrule land deeds.”

Mello said the coastal council was only saying that the town had to allow the general public to apply for a mooring, but the regulation “does not grant them access across any one private property.”

“This will be challenged before CRMC,” Bolger predicted. “I will challenge it.”

Mello said members of the public can apply for a mooring in a mooring area, but Bolger argued that the town allows only four moorings on a right-of-way. If no more than four moorings are present, it’s not a mooring area.

“This is very confusing the way he’s rewriting it,” de Angeli said, also objecting to Cute’s proposed changes.

“This is language CRMC brought back to us last week,” Mello said.

Bolger said it was unnecessary to say that the area would be open to the public “if it were a mooring area.”

“It is not a mooring area,” he said. “Why add a statement?”

“We don’t have to accept this,” Cain said.

“Yeah, we do,” de Angeli said. Otherwise, he added, the state wouldn’t grant its approval of the harbor documents.

“If you’re silent as to public access, it implies access,” Cain said. It was “deceiving the public” to imply that they could apply for moorings that, in reality, were inaccessible.

The CRMC was attempting to make Jamestown conform to “their statutory scheme,” de Angeli said. “Their scheme says members of the general public can apply.”

Mello said the state’s position is the areas are open to the public. He suggested meeting with Cute again.

Bolger asked to be included “as a representative of riparian property owners,” and Cain suggested inviting Cute to meet with the entire Harbor Commission in Jamestown.

In other business, the commissioners agreed to transfer the commercial moorings at West Ferry from Dutch Harbor LLC to the new owner, Dutch Harbor Boat Yard LLC, at the request of one of the new owners, Joseph P. Mc- Grady Jr.

McGrady did not attend the meeting.

Bolger wanted to postpone a vote on the transfer, pending a commitment from McGrady to allow public parking on the wharf, but the commissioners decided not to hold up the marina’s operations. Instead, Bolger said, he will bring up the issue at the public hearing on the proposed changes to the parking ordinance, which the traffic committee has recommended.

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