“Grandfathering” Folklore and Fees

After months of review and debate, the Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board is still plugging away at trying to find a happy medium on the issue of ‘grandfathered’ moorings. At the May 29 meeting, a draft document of the “Wharf, Mooring and Anchorage” rules and regulations was reviewed with specific concentration on this issue of grandfathered moorings.

Chairman Alan Gillis opened the discussion by telling the members that the work done on the draft was actually to bring in the language that had several years ago been adopted by the town. Apparently a new document had never been executed and distributed, so therefore the draft before them had already been vetted. Gillis said “our intent was to clean up the definition of grandfathering” and bring in those changes that had been made in 2008 and 2009 but never edited into the rules and regulations.

However, that didn’t stop the continued discussion regarding grandfathered mooring. They agreed to disagree and that the new language they are proposing is an attempt to find a middle ground between those mooring holders who have enjoyed the privileged status for years and those on the mooring wait list. Some members referred to past practices that might have ended up becoming expectations and passed down like folklore.

They circled around again at various points, with members injecting that grandfathering exempted the mooring holder from all rules and regulations, to the loss of a mooring after one year if a boat is not moored on the grandfathered spot. No one seemed particularly pleased, but Bob Moore noted that town counsel would be reviewing the document and that then it would be sent to the Board of Selectmen for their input and review before being presented to the public.

The proposed grandfathering language is: “Grandfathered Mooring” shall mean moorings set prior to April 24, 1989. They shall continue to be considered grandfathered moorings as long as the current owner owns them and during the ownership by the next subsequent owner, after which it ceases to be a grandfathered mooring. A transfer to a spouse shall not be counted as a transfer to a subsequent owner.”

Harbormaster Jill Simmons said that she will remove all ‘for rent’ signs she finds on moorings because, “it is illegal to rent a mooring in any way shape or form … I’ll take down every single ‘for rent’ sign.” She added, “We are not in the business of supplementing someone’s income.” Simmons told the board that of the approximately 1000 moorings, 230 of them are grandfathered.

Simmons also reported to the board that she is concerned about the financial health of the waterfront enterprise she is responsible for managing. She noted that of the boat excise tax, only 50 percent goes into the waterfront account with the other half going to the town treasury. Of fees, she said that those “hadn’t been touched” in years and that now might be a good time to recalibrate all fees to help offset rising expenses. Gillis suggested – and the board agreed – that she would work with Town Administrator Mike Gagne to forge a plan on increased fees that might help balance the growing deficit the enterprise fund is facing. Simmons said that through the month of April, the deficit was approximately $25,000. Member Carlos DeSousa made a motion to have the board send a letter to the Board of Selectmen supporting Simmons on fee increases. The board approved the motion. Gillis will send the letter.

Under new business, Moore brought to the board a document he had found while investigating the background of ‘grandfathered’ moorings in the state. In his letter to the board, Moore wrote, “….while researching how other cities and towns define the term “Grandfathered Moorings” I came across a report issued in 2011 by the Massachusetts Inspector General…how the Town of Newbury was falling short in their handling of the assignment of moorings to private businesses.” He went on to write that the IG’s recommendation to Newbury was, “The Department of Environmental Protection is requested to reexamine the efficacy of regulation 310C.M.R. 9.07(2)(d) which can be construed by recreational boating facilities to give them carte blanche authority to place whomever they wish on moorings issued to them by municipalities. DEP is urged to clarify the language in this regulation to make it clear that persons being considered for an open vacancy on one of these moorings must be taken from a list maintained by the Harbormaster that is maintained in a fair and equitable way.”

            Moore asked the members to take the time to read the full report, not because he felt Mattapoisett was doing anything wrong, but to help them more fully understand and appreciate all the details concerning this issue while they are in the process of perfecting the rules and regulation language.

Members present during this meeting were: Jack Duff; Carlos DeSousa; John Cornish; Patricia Apperson; Jeff Swift; Robert Moore; Marc Lareau; Alan Gillis; and Walter Reid.

The next meeting of the Marine Advisory Board is scheduled for June 26 in town hall at 7:00 pm.

By Marilou Newell


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