TREMONT — Moving to preempt the cruise ship industry from bringing passengers ashore at Bass Harbor, Tremont selectmen Monday voted unanimously to call a special town meeting to consider a moratorium on such maritime uses.
Several members of the public addressed the board, urging the town to take action in the wake of a similar effort in neighboring Southwest Harbor. (See related story.)
After one small ship brought passengers ashore at Northeast Harbor last year, Mount Desert officials moved to prohibit the use of town docking facilities in that town by cruise ships.
Harbor Committee Vice Chairman Mel Atherton told selectmen that no one who spoke at that group’s recent meeting was in favor of the idea. “We didn’t find anyone in the room who thought allowing cruise ship tenders to dock in Tremont was a good thing,” he said. He added that in numerous casual conversations throughout the community, the feedback was the same.
He added that any passengers landed at Tremont would be put on buses and whisked away to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, which would not benefit local businesses.
Kevin Buck, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, asked if anyone in the room at Monday’s meeting was in favor of cruise ships. No one spoke or raised a hand.
David Edson said he thought it was important to put it on the record that the town stood in opposition.
“Personally, I think ships coming here is a terrible idea,” said Buck.
Selectman Chris Eaton said none of the town’s floats could accommodate more than 15 people at once. Cruise ship tenders often carry 50 to 60 passengers at a time. He made a motion that the board direct Town Manager Dana Reed to draw up the order for a special town meeting to consider a six-month moratorium on cruise ship visits.
With no additional discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve the motion. Four members were present, including Buck, Eaton, Jamie Thurlow and Howard Goodwin. Selectman McKenzie Jewett was absent.
The board is slated to vote on setting a date for a special town meeting when it meets again on Aug. 21. If scheduled, voters could approve a moratorium lasting 180 days. The idea is to give town officials and the Planning Board time to craft prohibitions against – or rules regulating – cruise ship visitation.
The ban could be extended in six-month intervals, provided sufficient progress was being made.
After the vote Monday, Linda Higgins urged officials to make sure that any regulations that are created are very specific so they don’t hurt existing maritime businesses or companies offering tourist cruises. The board agreed.
In other action on Monday, the selectmen worked through a series of votes to reverse an earlier decision, made in error, to charge $50 per linear foot for seasonal rentals on the town’s transient vessel floats. The board voted to establish a fee of $25 per foot as recommended by the town’s Harbor Committee.