Harbormaster aims to tighten mooring permit process

A metric study of the town’s moorings, conducted by Harbormaster Ian Macmillan and members of the town’s finance department, is expected to tighten regulations on mooring permits for local boaters beginning this year.

At the Dec. 12 Board of Selectmen meeting, Mr. Macmillan provided an overview of the three-month audit of mooring metrics, headed by Ron Lalli, Penny Monahan and Pat Maranan, which will be used to change the way mooring permits are issued in the future. The team collected an in-depth inventory of the town’s moorings and gathered information from mooring owners that included their contact information, descriptions of their vessels and ground tackle and the exact location of the moorings.

It was concluded that there are 230 moorings in Indian Harbor, 125 in Belle Haven, 105 at the Greenwich Boat & Yacht Club, 155 owned by other yacht clubs under Mr. Macmillan’s jurisdiction as harbormaster, and 406 privately owned recreational moorings, which adds up to 791 total moorings in town. Thirteen of the moorings are clearly neglected and assumed abandoned, Mr. Macmillan added, while 16 are located in shellfish beds and must be removed.

Mr. Macmillan explained that since his appointment to the role of harbormaster in 2011, he has never collected, billed or in any way handled funds associated with the metrics of the mooring permit process because there has been no approved Harbor Management Plan in place that would charge his office with that task. Accordingly, the nature of the town’s previous permit process, which consisted of issuing mooring stickers without an inventory of mooring locations, “indicates it was an unsafe and unfair practice,” Mr. Macmillan said, adding that the process was being completely revamped.

The town’s 2014 mooring permit application process will ensure that those who seek permits are serious about their applications, Mr. Macmillan said. The application will have a separate mark for those who have a boat and those who don’t, as owning a vessel is now an important part of the permitting process, he said. As of the Dec. 12 Board of Selectmen meeting, 2014 mooring applications included 16 individual boat owners who want full-time moorings and six who would like a lunch hook, which is a light anchor for mooring a small yacht for a short time, on their coastal homefront, according to Mr. Macmillan.

Given the metric data collected over the last few months and the overhaul of the permitting process, Mr. Macmillan said he would like to ensure that permits are handled properly in the future. In order to do so, he asked that the Board of Selectmen, which will serve as a Harbor Management Commission until members of the newly approved body are appointed, adopt a specific section of the Connecticut General Statutes.

Section 22a-113R of the Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 444a harbor commissions states that, upon adoption of the plan, no mooring or anchorage shall be placed in the harbor without a permit from the harbormaster or deputy harbormaster and that the harbormaster or deputy harbormaster shall keep a record of the location of each mooring or anchorage that has been issued, the name and address of the owner, and a description of the vessel.

“In this case, I’m asking for your passing this as a regulation in town,” Mr. Macmillan said. “The regulation shall apply to all entities, including but not limited to individuals, mooring service providers, mooring construction contractors, and commercial vessels. They will all be held separately and jointly liable for all expenses incurred in removing unpermitted moorings.”

By holding not only boat owners but all involved parties accountable for obtaining a proper mooring permit, the town could ensure that there are no loopholes in the permit process, Mr. Macmillan said. In the past, he said, many boat owners who did not have permits hired contractors to place or commission moorings for them without a permit. If the Board of Selectmen approves of the regulation Mr. Macmillan recommended, however, those individuals would no longer be able to “circumnavigate us,” he said. Both clients and contractors would be responsible for obtaining a permit, which would have a “dramatic effect” on the mooring permit system if enforced properly, he said.

Mr. Macmillan said the passing of the regulation would also help give him the tool he needs to take moorings away from those who have not paid for them. Additionally, he said, he hopes to build a database of unpaid collection fees that date back to 2008, when the current fees were set. He could then make those who have not paid their fees liable for the owed amount. In order to do so, however, he said he needed the selectmen’s help. At present, “I don’t have any enforcement tools other than just correlating information,” Mr. Macmillan said.

Selectman David Theis agreed that a change in mooring permit regulations was needed, adding, “Some people have had it pretty good, I think, for a little too long.”

Although the board said it did not see any problems with Mr. Macmillan’s proposal, the members said they would prefer to have the request reviewed by the town’s legal department before officially approving it. If it passes the legal department’s inspection, the approval of the regulation will then be voted on at the next scheduled selectmen’s meeting, which is this morning at 10 a.m.

 

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