Brunswick restricts boat moorings, may add fee

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BRUNSWICK — Boaters who want to moor in local waters this summer will have to register with the town by June 1, and may ultimately pay annual registration fees, under a new ordinance unanimously approved Monday by the Town Council.

The new law allows one mooring for each boat owner with at least 100 feet of shoreline property. Moorings must be registered each year, inspected every two years, and meet town requirements for safety and location.

Fees haven’t been determined, and would require separate approval by the council. But councilors have previously floated a possible $50 charge for registration.

Tightening control over the who, how and where of moorings was one of the suggestions of the 2013 Harbor Management Plan. In March 2014, the council appointed a seven-member Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission to make specific recommendations based on the plan, including changes to the town’s harbor ordinance.

“We feel this is right, it fits the unique needs of Brunswick,” the commission’s chairman, Mark Worthing, told the council. “Admittedly, it’s a framework. It’s the beginning of a process.”

But that start wasn’t enough for Collinsbrook Road resident Joe Caruso.

“I’m frustrated,” said Caruso, who doesn’t own shore-front property. “I’m a taxpayer, but I can’t have a mooring. … I think the ordinance should add in a policy for non-waterfront owners.”

Worthing said that it could take “months, if not years” for the town to provide residents like Caruso with a mooring field and a way to access it. “We can’t just do that in a couple meetings.”

Unlike communities such as Freeport and Yarmouth, Worthing pointed out, Brunswick doesn’t have a public landing that can easily provide access to a mooring field. Moorings aren’t permitted at the town’s Mere Point boat launch, he said, and it might be difficult to moor in waters off Sawyer Park.

Like Worthing, councilors seemed to feel the new ordinance is a good start, but that the town should continue to explore how to provide mooring access for residents without waterfront property.

“It’s not worth holding things up,” Councilor Suzan Wilson, a member of the commission, said. “But understand, this commission is strongly committed to the expansion and protection of public access. There’s nothing in the ordinance that would circumvent that.”

After approving the ordinance, councilors then approved an amendment requiring the commission to report back by June 2016 with ideas for improving mooring access for non-waterfront residents.

In other business, the council unanimously adopted changes to the town’s rules about how employees accrue unused vacation time.

The new policy requires non-union workers to obtain written permission from the town manager in order to “carry over” more than 30 days of vacation from year to year. Any excess time would expire at the end of the following year, unless written permission is again obtained. Accruals of more than 40 days would require permission of the council. 

The town’s employment policy is written as an ordinance, and so the change required council approval. 

The new rules, spelled out in a memo from Town Manager John Eldridge, come after several much-publicized cases of senior town employees accruing more than the 30-day cap. They include Eldridge, who as finance director had accrued nearly 1,300 hours of unused vacation time before being hired as town manager last year.

On Monday, he pointed out that the rule change does not affect his own vacation accrual, which is governed by an employment contract with the town.

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