Fee structure torpedoes regs



TREMONT — Federal regulations surrounding the dredging of Bass Harbor have sunk a plan to send a new version of the wharf and facilities ordinance to voters this spring.

In a joint meeting last week between selectmen and the Harbor Committee, town attorney James Collier said Jay Clement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified him that the town cannot have separate fees for use of the Bernard Town Wharf for residents and nonresidents. The recently rewritten ordinance continues the two-tiered approach to setting the fees set in the current ordinance approved by voters in 2015.

Wharf-use permits are set by the length of the boat. A per-foot fee, now $12.50 for vessels up to 50 feet in length and $25 per foot for those greater than 50 feet, is charged for resident vessels. Nonresident vessels pay double the amount paid by the owners of resident vessels.

In a Jan. 23 email to Collier, Clement wrote that this arrangement violates a local cooperation agreement.

“So for the town to charge residence-based fees at the town dock now compromises the past agreements and determinations,” Clement wrote.

The agreement between the corps and the town states that the “landing,” which Clement interprets as the Bernard Wharf, “must be kept open to all on an equal basis. And part of being open to all on an equal basis is that whatever you charge for the use of that dock, you cannot charge residents one fee and nonresidents a higher fee.”

Town Manager Dana Reed noted that this was a new development.

“It seems like they’re requiring something that they never required before,” he said.

Clement did suggest a possible solution regarding the wharf. Another location in the harbor might meet the requirements for “an alternative ‘landing’ that meets your agreement with the corps,” he wrote.

The rewrite of the wharf and facilities ordinance came as part of updating that and another harbor-related ordinance, the harbor management ordinance. Instead of amending the wharf and facilities ordinance, Collier rewrote the document, stating that a completely new ordinance would be less confusing than a heavily amended version of the current rules.

Both ordinances were on track for a vote at a town meeting. Now it appears that only the harbor management ordinance will go before voters at the May annual town meeting (See story on page 1).

“I think the wharf ordinance is dead now,” proclaimed Selectman Stewart Murphy.

A new version will be developed but not before issues raised by the corps are resolved. Harbormaster Justin Seavey said Monday that he and Clements are to meet on Feb. 10 to discuss how to proceed.

Under the current fee structure, there would be a loss of revenue from the Bernard Wharf as the result of resident and nonresident fees being equal. There are about 13 nonresidents using the wharf. Seavey estimates there would be a $5,000 drop in fees collected.

 

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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