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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — Selectmen will meet with residents to discuss concerns about barge traffic at Bennett’s Cove.
The board will also consider a draft ordinance that could prohibit the use of fireworks on the island.
Complaints about the situation at Bennett’s Cove go back at least to April 2017, when the board received a letter from attorney Scott Anderson on behalf of 10 nearby residents.
Town Administrator Marjorie Stratton said barging at the cove is primarily used to transport large trucks, such as those carrying garbage or fuel, that Chebeague Island Transportation can’t accommodate.
According to the letter, there are “several reasons” barge landings at the cove are problematic, including the inadequacy of road access in and out of the cove for large vehicles being offloaded.
“These roads are narrow and the abutting areas are residential in nature,” Anderson said. “Houses are located close to the roads, and there is no adequate buffer for noise, dust and other impacts.”
Residents were also concerned with the lack of adequate shoulders on the road to allow large vehicles to safely pass bikers and pedestrians.
Anderson also said barge traffic is incompatible with other uses of the cove, including recreation.
“Any significant truck or barge or barge traffic renders the beach area, and the adjacent uplands, unusable,” he said. “… To the extent there are public areas, they should be managed in a manner that allows multiple uses to peacefully coexist.”
He also noted that a “partially buried” electrical cable – owned and operated by Central Maine Power Co. and used to carry power from Chebeague Island to Long and Cliff islands – is in Bennett’s Cove and is susceptible to damage from boat propellers.
“CMP has repeatedly warned the town that barging in the cove undermines the integrity of the submarine cable which originally was buried under the beach,” Anderson said.
Finally, he shared residents’ environmental concerns, including the impact of barging on eel grass beds, sand dunes and juvenile lobster habitat.
According to a 2007 report, Anderson said, The Lobster Conservancy classified Bennett’s Cove as one of seven “especially important lobster nurseries in Casco Bay,” one of two such areas on Chebeague Island. He said additional gravel and other material or installation of a concrete ramp for access to the landing is “unacceptable as they will harm the environmental resources” in the cove.
In a July 2 letter to the board, Greg Hanscom, one of the residents Anderson represented in his letter last year, proposed formation of a “working group” comprised of residents and board members to “provide reasonable and sustainable regulations for barging … and for remediation of the impact expanded barging has had on the cove.”
“My family, our neighbors, both summer and year-round residents … have a sincere desire to work collaboratively and constructively with the Board of Selectmen,” Hanscom said.
Stratton on Monday said the board opted not to establish a formal committee. However, Selectmen Mark Dyer and David Hill have offered to meet with residents to discuss how they might proceed and what measures could be taken to alleviate concerns.
Stratton said meetings will likely involve considering other town-owned ports where barging could take place, such as Stone Wharf and the undeveloped Sunset Landing, for which the town is drafting a master plan.
“Bennett’s Cove has been a public access point for … as long as anyone can remember,” Stratton said. “We’re not at the place yet where we can evaluate the advantages of all of these options.”
Hill has drafted two options for the board to consider to address residents’ concerns about fireworks being launched from the island.
The first is an outright ban on fireworks, lifted from Yarmouth. The second would be a use ordinance borrowing language from one in effect on Long Island.
Hill suggested a two-stage process for Town Meeting. First, to determine if the town wants to ban fireworks altogether, and second to determine if the town wants to adopt an ordinance to ban the sale of fireworks on Chebeague, while regulating the use of consumer fireworks purchased elsewhere. The second question would be contingent on the defeat of the first.
If the first question passes, the second question – which would control the use of fireworks, limiting the days and locations when and where they may be used – would be deemed null and void.
According to Hill, 97 of Maine’s 455 towns and cities either ban or restrict the use of fireworks.
Under a prohibition, the sale and use of consumer fireworks would be banned except as allowed under a fireworks display permit issued by the state.
Stratton said in future meetings the board will discuss whether to send the two-part question to a special Town Meeting or a vote at the June 2019 annual Town Meeting.
Edited Aug. 15 to clarify the intent of the second proposed fireworks question.
Chebeague Island residents have raised concerns about barges at Bennett’s Cove, where large trucks carrying garbage or fuel are transported.