Can a Causeway business get a dock?

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — It is like a real-life game of Monopoly.

The first people who land on the squares and who have enough money snag up the prime property.

Into place go the homes, the hotels, the restaurants, the gift shops, and the other businesses that fill the needs of both residents and tourists. In towns with water, businesses with shorefront property have the advantage of being in a place where people gravitate.

Recently, local elected official Christine Powers received a request from the owners of the water-based business, SunSports+.

Powers put the item on the agenda of a recent Naples Board of Selectmen meeting.

The issue was only discussed. A few board members were against it because allowing one establishment to have a dock would likely seem unfair to other businesses on the Causeway. Secondly, it was unclear which entity on the town level would have the authority to grant such a request.

“I thought because they had a business on the Causeway, they might be able to have a dock,” Powers said.

Currently, SunSports+ rents a slip at the Naples Marina on Brandy Pond. The owners of SunSports+ have operated businesses in Naples for more than 20 years. Two years ago, they purchased the Gazebo Tee’s building. The store sells a variety of wakeboards, paddleboards and water skis. They offer wakeboarding and water skiing lessons, but do not own a dock from which to conduct those classes.

“This is a business that does their business on the water. I am wondering if someone can make an application. Do they go to code enforcement, the selectmen, or the planning board? I don’t think it is clear,” Powers said.

Chairman Dana Watson said it was not very clear; and years ago, it took an act of the Maine State Legislature to give ownership of docks in public water to the few businesses that now have them.

So, which Naples businesses have dock access on the Causeway?

Watson explained the history of the Songo River Queen II, which is operated by Kent Uicker, who owns the docks but leases the land from the State of Maine.

The Naples Casino building, which houses Rick’s Café, has physical property including a dock across Route 302.

On Long Lake, Sandy’s Flight Deck has a small temporary dock. Also nearby, the beachfront and a dock are used for small airplanes that are part of a flight-seeing business.

According to Watson, there was no land, no beach, off the Causeway until the Maine lawmakers passed a bill that permitted Augustus “Gus” Bove to backfill the shoreline and put in the docks.

Town Manager Derik Goodine said that Moose Landing Marina “has a submerged land lease. That allows him to have all those moorings.”

“If you don’t own (shorefront land) do you have to have special legislation or not? I don’t know,” Goodine said.

Powers said she reached a dead end in her research when she asked members of the legislature and state agencies which avenue to take.

“The state said the dock issue is not its jurisdiction anymore. It is a town issue,” she said.

Watson said granting a dock to one business would open a can of worms.

“You know what is going to happen if they put in a dock,” he said.

Powers responded by asking how many other Causeway businesses have a direct connection to the water.

“It is extremely confusing. I think we should clarify it,” she said.

In 2001, the state passed onto the individual towns the jurisdiction over shoreland ownership as well as docks and moorings.

According to Goodine, at one point, town officials tossed around the idea of putting in a pier for fishing from the Causeway. However, the potential pier would have to be constructed 30 feet into the water. That is because of the height of the sidewalk and creating a safe grade for pedestrians, he said.

Selectman Rick Paraschak asked other board members if the town wanted to entertain someone submitting an application for a temporary dock on the Causeway.

There was no vote.

Powers said she would continue to look into the matter.

“The town should have a better understanding of who owns what, and what is the process” for a business to acquire a temporary dock, she said.

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