Falmouth council rejects expanded boat launch, OKs roadside stands

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday voted against expanding boat access at Highland Lake, but asked the state to continue stocking the lake with fish.

The unanimous vote against changing the public boat launch off Lowell Farm Road came months after a representative of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife first told town officials an expansion was needed to continue the state’s cold-water fish stocking program.

State and town officials met several times to discuss the proposal before a public hearing on Feb. 13.

Francis Brautigam, an IFW regional fishery biologist for the Sebago Lake Management Region, told the council on Feb. 13 that the state will no longer stock the lake with trout and salmon unless equitable boat access is created.

For Highland Lake that would meant reconfiguring the launch to allow access for 16- to 18-foot boats, similar in size to boats used by people who live near the lake. 

Brautigam said inequitable access for trailered boats is inconsistent with the department’s policies on stocking and access “that were established to ensure the public has reasonable and equitable access to utilize fish that are raised and stocked using sportsmen’s license dollars.”

During a public hearing the same night, residents said the expansion is not needed and could make the lake vulnerable to invasive species like Eurasian milfoil. They also said larger boats could interfere with other popular uses of the lake, including kayaking, rowing and open-water swimming.

Councilor Fred Chase said a lot of money and effort has been spent over the years to maintain the lake. He said he hopes IFW continues to stock the lake.

“We have a lot invested in the lake. It’s a good place for locals to bring a kid fishing,” Chase said.

Vice Chairwoman Faith Varney said she has had a camp on Highland Lake since 1967 and opposes allowing larger boats to use the launch.

“It’s a wonderful lake for small boats,” Varney said.

Also on Monday, the council unanimously approved a zoning amendment to allow roadside stands in residential districts.

The zoning change permits roadside stands as a residential accessory use and is intended to allow for permanent structures dedicated to the sale of Maine products. The amendment was introduced in January by the Community Development Committee;d the Planning Board voted 4-0 to recommend the council approve the change.

The amendment removes the previous definition of a farm stand, which allowed maximum 400-square-foot stands selling farm, garden, nursery or greenhouse items and, from Labor Day to Christmas, trees, garlands and wreaths.

Community Development Director Amanda Stearns said residents will now be able to sell a wider variety of products at roadside stands. In addition to farm produce, residents will be allowed to sell any product certified as Maine made and locally produced products from home kitchens.

Stearns said residents who want to open roadside stands will have to secure conditional use approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals, then a permit from the code enforcement office.

Councilor Bonny Rodden welcomed the change.

“I hope we see some great roadside stands, which I expect we will,” she said.

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or ggraham@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.