TREMONT — Members of the Harbor Committee here have been struggling with how to allow for the transfer of moorings used by boatyards to the new owner when the business is sold. Last week, the town’s attorney gave them some sobering news.
“The point about transferability is crazy,” attorney James Collier told the committee May 26. “I would love it. There would be lawsuits galore.”
The mooring transfer issue became a priority of the committee after concerns were raised about the transfer of a mooring from Robert “Chummy” Rich to Richard Helmke. Rich, who owned Bass Harbor Boat, which included a float on the mooring in question, sold the business to Helmke in 2014. The issue was that the harbormaster at the time approved the transfer in violation of the harbor ordinance.
The ordinance prohibits any moorings from being transferred with the exception of moorings used for commercial fishing and then only to a family member who would continue its use for commercial fishing. This requirement mirrors that of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in federal dredge areas.
Bass Harbor was subject to a federal dredge project in 2010-2011. In financing the project, federal funds were used. Those funds came with certain conditions, which include compliance with the regulation regarding the transfer of moorings, Collier reminded the committee.
“You took the money when the feds dredged the harbor, and you have to play by the rules,” he said.
State law would apply outside the federal dredge area. State law regarding the transfer of moorings is the same as required by the Army Corps and the harbor ordinance.
“I’m not sure of policies outside the dredge area,” Collier said, when asked about the state requirements.
However, committee member Spencer Ervin, himself an attorney, pointed out the town has to comply with both state and federal regulations.
“We have to deal with both,” he said.
Collier also informed the Harbor Committee that he is working to update the harbor ordinance. Of particular concern, he said, is the process for appealing decisions of the harbormaster. Any suspension or revocation of permits now must be appealed to the Harbor Committee on a de novo basis. As such, new evidence can be introduced.
Collier said he prefers an appellate review of these issues. A de novo appeal takes power away from the harbormaster, he said. Town Manager Dana Reed agreed.
With an appellate review, the committee would consider evidence based on what was known at the time of the alleged violation.