2014-12-26 / Front Page

Kennebunkport mulls mooring fees

Some residents complain of ‘additional tax,’ assault on tradition
By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

A pair of lobster boats can be seen trolling on Friday, Dec. 19 past Cape Porpoise, one of many places in Kennebunkport affected by a waterfront ordinance adopted in 2012. Permitting of moorings under those rules began in earnest last season. Now, selectmen are considering new mooring fees to be charged beginning in 2015. 
(Duke Harrington photo) A pair of lobster boats can be seen trolling on Friday, Dec. 19 past Cape Porpoise, one of many places in Kennebunkport affected by a waterfront ordinance adopted in 2012. Permitting of moorings under those rules began in earnest last season. Now, selectmen are considering new mooring fees to be charged beginning in 2015. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — Following the 2012 adoption of a new waterfront ordinance, Kennebunkport had good luck getting boat owners to register their moorings, securing what Town Manager Laurie Smith calls, “a healthy percentage of volunteer compliance.” But finding similar cooperation when it comes to paying a proposed permit fee could be another matter entirely.

At the most recent board of selectmen meeting several residents, alerted by a municipal letter to a potential mooring permit fee starting in 2015, gathered to voice their objections.

“I don’t see the value in this, what I’m thinking of as an additional tax,” said Bartlett Avenue resident Jonathan Larrabee. “You’re already taxing my boat with an excise tax. You’re already taxing the trailer that it sits on most of the season. You’re already taxing the truck I pull the boat with. And now you’re going to put a fee on my boat when it’s in the water?”

The new fee, suggested by the Cape Porpoise Pier Committee, would be $30 per year for a tidal-water permit, and $60 when mooring in deep water. Payment is due by May 1, along with a mooring inspection certification to be placed on file with Harbormaster Lee McCurdy.

However, some residents pointed out that determining who pays which fee, particularly along Goose Rocks Beach — which remains mired in legal limbo over public access rights — could present its own special kind of headache.

“There are moorings there that would technically be classified in the intertidal zone that is in dispute,” said Larrabee. “I don’t know if you really want to poke that sleeping bear.”

Town officials say the new permit fee, which applies to all moorings except those in the Kennebunk River, and those that belong to members of the Cape Porpoise Pier, will become part of the annual budget for the pier. Smith said in a Dec. 20 email that mooring fees are already included in dues paid by pier members. Those fees range from $400 per year for recreational use of the pier, to $605 for commercial boats, with a $310 add-on to tie up a punt.

According to Smith, the new fee will be used to offset the cost of patrolling and regulating moorings in Cape Porpoise, Goose Rocks, Turbat’s Creek, Paddy Creek and Land’s End, as well as other areas between Goose Rocks Beach and Walker’s Point.

Paddy Creek Road resident Dan Beard said he could tolerate a mooring fee in Cape Porpoise if it went to pier maintenance. After all, he also moors there and docks at the pier “two or three times per year” to gas up.

But so-called outlying areas, like Paddy Creek, should be left alone, he said.

“I don’t see how this ordinance is going to protect us from ourselves,” said Beard. “I don’t see what any of us in that area are going to gain by being charged for a mooring in front of our houses.”

Allen Daggett, chairman of the board of selectmen, said that even in private areas, accidents can happen, such as oil and gas spills, or breakaway ships that go rogue and damage others. The permitting process is needed in order to determine who is responsible for what boat, especially when it wanders away from in front of someone’s house, he said. Meanwhile, other once-tranquil spots have seen a population boom in boats.

“Forty years ago, we had 15, 20, maybe 30 moorings in Goose Rocks, now we have almost 100,” he said.

“It may not seem that way, but this is a way to protect your interests,” said Selectman Stuart Barwise.

But Beard remained unimpressed, at least so far as Paddy Creek was concerned.

“I’ve never seen a harbor master on Paddy Creek in 50 years, looking at the boats and trying to sort them out, so they weren’t in each other’s way or something of this nature,” he said. “I don’t see a problem and I don’t see why an area like Paddy Creek needs to be fixed.”

“I think this is an overreach by the municipal government to take care of a problem that doesn’t exist,” agreed Main Street resident Roger Seavey, who said he grew up on Paddy Creek. “To go after the common person and make them pay a fee to put their boat in the water is something that I think is ridiculous.”

Larrabee agreed that many of the more recent moorings that concern selectmen consist of little more than cinder blocks, tires and discarded chunks of cast iron tied to buoys. But many, he said, were thrown in the water by seasonal residents and never once used, simply to claim a spot prior to the 2012 ordinance update.

There was apparently some fear that moorings could be capped elsewhere in town, as they are at Cape Porpoise, where more than 50 people remain on a waiting list for an available spot. According to town records, just seven mooring applications have been approved at Cape Porpoise in the past 13 years.

Meanwhile Barbara Mazeika of Kings Highway predicted mooring fees would ultimately lead to a larger municipal government, with additional staffers hired to assist McCrudy.

“I really feel you are trying to get money from somewhere and maybe even trying to create an even bigger job for the harbor master,” she said.

But even more troublesome to Mazeika, it seemed, was the impact of what she deemed “micromanaging by the board” on a longstanding tradition.

“My family has been mooring there since the 1940s,” she said. “I really think it’s an insult to ask us to pay for it.”

“Here’s something that over the years has been just wonderful,” said Hank Bonser of Mills Road. “There was no cost out of the pocket. You just go down and throw your boat into the water. Now, all of the sudden, it’s coming about that a fee is being put into place.”

Like Bonser, Beard asked whether the town intends to charge a permit fee on moorings that, technically, are on private property.

“What I have is, essentially, a clothesline,” he said, explaining that his own boat, along with a skiff belonging to a tenant, is staked to dry land.

The Nov. 17 letter that went out to mooring owners said: “The tidal moorings that are on private tidal beaches have the same issues associated with other moorings, and the recommendation is that fees should apply to all moorings.”

However, McCurdy said in Beard’s case, a mooring fee would be “up for discussion.”

Ultimately, what may be charged for mooring fees in Kennebunkport, and where, is a decision for the future.

“Nothing is being voted on tonight,” said Daggett at the Dec. 11 meeting.

Still, the board seems to agree that some sort of fee is in the offing.

“There never used to be boats moored in the bay and now, every year, you see more and more cropping up,” said Barwise. “There has to be some measure with which the town can respond to that. This is something that bears a conscious eye, rather than a blind one.

“But I think we should probably clarify that this is not something that arose as an action by the board of selectmen,” said Barwise “This was brought before the board by the Cape Porpoise Pier Committee. Right now this is something that is very much a work in progress and open to refinement.”

Mooring fees

Kennebunkport is considering adoption of a mooring permit fee of $30 in tidal areas and $60 in deep water, a fee that would be the same for commercial and recreational boats not on the Kennebunk River, or already paying for spots by the town pier in Cape Porpoise. Most towns divide their fees not by location, but type, for resident, non-residents and commercial permits, according to the following list of area municipalities, compiled by the town and the Maine Harbor Masters Association:

Resident Non-Resident Commercial
Biddeford $125 $125
Cape Elizabeth $50 $200
Falmouth $57 $257 $57
Long Island $30 $60
Portland $78 $145
Saco $125
Scarborough $50 $100
Yarmouth $105 $105-180 $55

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