Falmouth reduces dinghy permits, holds the line on fees

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council agreed Monday to a slight reduction in the number of dinghy permits that will be issued this year at Town Landing, but rejected a proposal to also double the cost.

The council also approved an expenditure of nearly $85,000 to support the work of the Tercentennial Committee, which is planning events to celebrate the town’s 300th anniversary next year.

Funding for the celebratory event comes from various Tax Increment Financing accounts, according to Town Manager Nathan Poore, so there will be no impact on the tax rate.

The Tercentennial Committee plans to use the funding to “secure (event) locations, advertise, seek sponsorships and engage vendors,” according to a resolution passed by the council.

The overall goal of the 300th celebration, the resolution said, is to “’Honor the Past, Celebrate the Present, and Invest in the Future” with a broad range of events that will focus on Falmouth’s history, encourage community spirit and civic pride, and generate (income) for our businesses and nonprofit organizations.”

Among the special events being planned for 2018 are an Old Home Days festival, which will be held over Memorial Day weekend, a community picnic and street dance in the summer months and an Incorporation Day event, which will be held in mid-November.

When it came time to discuss the proposal by the Harbor/Waterfront Committee to limit the total number of dinghy permits and increase their costs, most of the residents speaking Monday were not in favor of either plan.

After taking public comment, however, the council agreed to reduce the total number of permits that will be issued on April 8 from 90 to 70. Fifty of the permits would be reserved for residents.

The council also amended the order to state that any nonresident permits not issued by April 30 would become available to residents.

Harbormaster Alan Twombley said the reason he requested a reduction in the number of dinghy permits was due to public safety concerns caused by overcrowding at Town Landing.

Several of those speaking Monday suggested that instead of limiting the number of permits, the town should install another dinghy float. Other suggestions included installing a dry land dinghy storage facility or offering a launch service.

Richard Craven, a member of the Harbor/Waterfront Committee, said keeping “open access is critical.” His committee has “looked at a lot of different solutions” over the past two years, but felt limiting the number of permits was the best option.

“I don’t like what we’re doing, but something has to be done,” Craven said.

Richard Garrett, chairman of the committee, agreed. “We don’t treat these decisions lightly. We’ve been working on this issue for several years and studied every possible solution.”

In the end, he said, “We came to an agreement that this solution was the best we could come up with.”

Councilor Aaron Svedlow, the liaison to the Harbor/Waterfront Committee, said “more work needs to done, frankly, and there needs to be more public engagement.” Overall, however, he agreed with Twombley that the overcrowding situation is “an acute problem” and an immediate short-term solution is needed.

Svedlow said the committee should do more work on the issue and revisit it in October after the boating season is over. At that time, he said, the committee should “make sure all the stakeholders are part of the conversation.”

Meanwhile, Council Chairwoman Karen Farber, asked, “How much responsibility does the town really have to help people get out to their boats?”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

The popularity of inflatable dinghies, like this one, is causing overcrowding at Falmouth’s Town Landing.