Selectmen to consider harbor management on Thursday

The Board of Selectmen is set to meet Thursday morning, Aug. 15, for a special meeting to consider a new harbor management ordinance.

The ordinance would not set up a harbor management plan for the town, but would establish a new commission that would be tasked with creating that plan. Under the current proposal, a seven-member volunteer commission would be comprised of town residents serving three-year terms. This commission would have jurisdiction “within and over all ‘navigable waters’ and inter-tidal areas below the mean high water line of the shoreline of Greenwich” and within the town’s territorial limits.

If approved, the commission’s initial task would be to develop the harbor management plan, for which many in town have been clamoring. Any plan would have to be approved, first by the selectmen and then by the state’s Department of Transportation and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as well as by the federal Army Corps of Engineers. Ultimately the plan would have to get final approval from the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

The commission would have the power to enter into contracts, employ consultants and spend money for equipment, supplies and staff in meeting its mission through the normal town approval process. In accordance with an approved harbor management plan, the commission would have the authority to create regulations for moorings and charge fees but those would also have to be approved by the selectmen and the RTM.

At this morning’s meeting, which is scheduled for 10 in the Town Hall Meeting Room, the selectmen are expected to vote on the ordinance. A public hearing on the issue was held late last month with a sharply divided group of speakers advocating both for the new commission and against it. Critics of the new commission said the plan was what was important, not another level of government, and said the selectmen could instead create a new advisory committee to develop the plan. However, supporters of the new commission said it would allow for a dedicated volunteers to focus on town waters and for needed action on issues like dredging and erosion to take place.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said last week that there was not a vote taken at the board’s Aug. 8 meeting, despite it being on the agenda, because of changes made to the ordinance after last month’s public hearing. He said he wanted to make sure there was time for everything to be reviewed before the vote.

One area the selectmen had focused on was on attendance for members of the proposed commission. Originally the ordinance was written to give the power to remove members if they missed one-third of the meetings over a 12-month period but that has been changed to 50% of the meetings. Mr. Tesei said he believed this was “much more balanced.”

There is also expected to be discussion at today’s meeting from Selectman Drew Marzullo about the specific language in the ordinance regarding the mechanism for setting fees.

The RTM has the final say on whether the ordinance is approved or not. If the selectmen vote in favor of it at today’s meeting the item will be added onto the RTM’s Sept. 16 agenda, which is the first meeting back for the body after its summer recess.

 

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