TREMONT — Major revisions to two harbor-related ordinances are scheduled for discussion at a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the town office meeting room.
The public hearing on proposed changes to the harbor ordinance and the wharf and facilities ordinance is in advance of a special town meeting where voters will consider adoption of the changes. No date has been set for the vote, but the meeting is expected to take place in February.
Selectmen decided to hold a special town meeting instead of waiting for the annual meeting in May at the prompting of the Harbor Committee. Harbor Committee members pushed for an early vote so the ordinances, if approved, would be in effect for the start of the spring boating and fishing season.
The Harbor Committee worked with attorney James Collier to revise the ordinances. Both documents have been extensively reworked.
The wharf and facilities ordinance sets the rules and regulations for use of the Bernard Wharf and Seal Cove Ramp. One major change is that many of the duties of the Harbor Committee have been shifted to the Board of Selectmen.
“Probably the biggest thing is we’ve put most of the decision making in the hands of selectmen,” said Harbor Committee Chairman Mel Atherton.
The Harbor Committee would serve more as an advisory committee. For instance, the selectmen would set all fees associated with use of the harbors. This would eliminate any questions about the motives of fishermen who sit on the Harbor Committee regarding the fees.
“There’s an inherent conflict of interest between lobstermen on the committee setting fees that affect their business,” Atherton said.
The proposed ordinance sets no fee amounts. This is by design, Atherton said, and gives selectmen the flexibility to make changes without going to voters for approval.
“Selectmen can react in a more timely fashion to needs at Seal Cove and the wharf,” he said.
As proposed, the ordinance also creates new categories of permits. These include a commercial services permit, a Seal Cove marine products permit and a Seal Cove transportation company permit. The new categories are in response to the changing nature of the commercial use of town facilities. Lobster buyers in Seal Cove and a marked increase in kayak and stand-up paddleboard companies using that facility are examples of a recent uptick in activity on the waterfront.
Amendments to the harbor ordinance include ones that clarify the makeup of the Harbor Committee, modify the appeals process and eliminate the committee’s role in regards to the harbormaster.
Under the amended ordinance, the committee would consist of seven members serving three-year terms. The current ordinance sets terms at two years. All members must be residents of the town and familiar with the harbors and activities within the harbors.
Two members are to be commercial fishermen, one an owner or employee of a boat storage or repair business, one a riparian property owner and three members representatives at large. The at-large members also could fall into one of the other categories.
The current ordinance states that the Board of Selectmen appoints the harbormaster, who is to serve a one-year term “at the pleasure of the Board of Selectmen.” Selectmen also appoint a deputy harbormaster if the Harbor Committee recommends that one be appointed.
In the amended ordinance, the reference to the Board of Selectmen is struck and replaced by “town manager.” Since the town manager is responsible for all employees in the town manager form of government in Tremont, the decision was made to take selectmen out of the role of managing the harbormaster.
The proposed ordinance states three reasons for which a decision by the harbormaster can be appealed to the Harbor Committee and the timeframe for making that appeal. Anyone affected by the assignment of a location for a mooring, float or lobster car must file an appeal by April 1 of each year. A person affected by issuance of a permit for a mooring, float or lobster car must file an appeal within 30 days of the permit being issued. A person who disagrees with the suspension or revocation of a permit has 30 days from the date of that action in which to appeal.
All three types of appeals are to be heard on a de novo basis, where new evidence can be introduced, and not on an appellate basis. The appellant must file all documents and exhibits related to the appeal seven days before the hearing. The opposing party can file a response to these materials three days before the hearing.
In hearing an appeal, the Harbor Committee is to use the rules for hearings as detailed in the Board of Appeals ordinance, with the exception of publicizing the notice of appeal, which only needs to be made once.
Any decision of the Harbor Committee unfavorable to the appellant can be appealed to the Tremont Board of Appeals within 30 days of the date of the Harbor Committee’s written decision. The Board of Appeals is to hear the appeal on an appellate basis, where no new evidence is allowed.