Brunswick will start charging mooring fees

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday voted to establish the town’s first boat mooring fees.

Beginning next spring, mooring owners will need to pay an annual $50 registration fee if they are residents, or if they have moorings in a commercial or public mooring field. Nonresidents will have to pay $100 to register.

The town previously did not charge mooring fees.

“This is a simple and equitable system,” Mark Worthing, chairman of the Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission, said Monday night.

The new fees fall closely in line with other coastal communities, according to data compiled by the town manager’s office.

Bath, Freeport and Harpswell all charge $25 for residents’ moorings, and more for nonresidents. Bath and Freeport charge $50 for nonresidents, Harpswell, $125. Some towns charge much more for nonresidents; Castine, for example, charges $350 for nonresident moorings, according to the data researched by the town manager.

A resident, as defined by the town’s harbor ordinance, is a person who lives more than six months a year in Brunswick, pays real estate taxes to the town, or is a registered voter.

Anyone who installs a helix mooring, which Worthing described as less destructive to eelgrass beds, can register a mooring at no cost for five years.

One of the goals of the Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission in preparing this work, Town Manager John Eldridge said Monday, was to recapture some of the costs associated with town harbormaster activities.

Harbor Master Dan Devereaux estimated he spends 25-35 percent of his time on mooring-related activities, according to a memo from Eldridge. Typical activities include verifying mooring IDs against the town’s registration database and doing visual inspections.

The town currently has 302 registered moorings, according to Devereaux. The fees will cover about a quarter of the $60,500 a year the town spends on harbor master activities, Eldridge said Monday.

Councilor Suzan Wilson, one of the measure’s sponsors, lauded the commission for doing its research with a “fine-toothed comb.”

“Our commission met a little bit of a higher bar,” she said.

But at least one piece of the new measure proved to be a sticking point through the entire process.

When the schedule was first presented to the council Nov. 2, Councilor Steve Walker, the measure’s other co-sponsor, reported he’d received some “insulting” correspondence from constituents about fees for nonresidents, saying things like “stick it to them.”

On Monday, Councilor Dan Harris said “the definition of a resident is a problem for me.”

Arguing that a property owner in Brunswick may own a coastal house and not actually live in it, he said he didn’t think “a person who is not a resident (should) be subsidized.”

But Councilor Wilson argued that coastal parcels represent a “small, but significant portion of our taxable revenue properties,” and that the definition of resident in the harbor ordinance “is not redefining residency for any other thing.”

In the end, the council moved to pass the measure unanimously. The harbor master will begin collecting mooring fees in May, after the annual deadline for mooring registration.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.