Casco mulls over moorings

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Possible changes to Casco’s mooring ordinance could cause a wave of discontent among some shorefront property owners.

Some of those alterations would simply bring it in line with state mandates. For example, state law requires that a mooring buoy is blue and white as opposed to orange. Other considerations include an annual registration sticker for moorings, and a low-cost fee to register.

Likely with Pleasant Lake in the Village and Big Sebago Lake in South Casco, any changes to the current ordinance would affect a portion of the population.

According to the town website, “Casco’s 36-square miles contain eight lakes and ponds, which comprise nearly 6-square miles of Casco’s area. Our year round population of 3,500 swells to 15,000 during the summer, when local youth summer camps and seasonal resorts are filled with visitors. Many of our seasonal residents have made Casco their summer home for several generations.”

On Tuesday, the Casco Board of Selectmen mulled over issues of concern, safety and legality during its workshop with Casco Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Don Murphy.

CEO Murphy told the board that similar to registering all motorized marine vessels, residents would register moorings. It was up to the board what fee — if any — to charge; other neighboring towns range from $10 to $20 per mooring, he said.

“I propose you (the selectmen) discuss registration of moorings. Should it be no fee? Or should it be a $10 to $15 fee,” he asked, adding the fee would pay for implementation of the mooring registration program.

“It is almost like an initial registration. It will be new to people,” Murphy said.

“You would say what kind of boat you would be using. You would show the location of your mooring to the best of your ability,” he said, adding the town would refer to the seamen’s mooring manual from Charles Chipman’s, “The Navy List” to maintain consistency.

During the workshop, Murphy stated that the ordinance is in rough draft form, and that he was asking the board for direction.

Chairman Mary-Veinessa Fernandes returned to Murphy’s comment that the State of Maine turned over to the towns the responsibility of permitting mooring in 2001. Since that was a decade ago, perhaps it is time to review and update the ordinance, she said.

Selectman Grant Plummer said residents might respond more favorably if changes happened in stages, rather than seemingly overnight.

“We have a mooring ordinance in place. If we overload it, we might not get the support of the townspeople. We could hold public hearings first,” Plummer said.

He also suggested forming a small committee that includes people who have a vested interest in how the mooring ordinance is shaped.

“I think it can get pretty sticky when we are telling shorefront owners what they can and cannot do. I think we need to be careful, and to include the public,” Plummer said.

Fernandes agreed public input was important. She said her major concern was safety; therefore, she liked the assurance provided by a safety checklist when mooring owners did their annual registration.

Selectman Ray Grant said he supported a mooring ordinance that the town could enforce.

Earlier in the discussion, Murphy said he needed to be able to enforce the mooring codes. After all, his duties as CEO include acting as Town Harbor Master, and overseeing the moorings 100 feet from the shoreline as well as resolving conflicts over those moorings.

“If I am going to tell someone to remove a mooring and pay for the cost of removal, I would need the language to back that up,” Murphy said.

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton shared his thoughts toward the end of the workshop discussion. He said he would like the ordinance to deal with abandoned moorings and the use of moorings that aren’t up to par. He said his father inherited his family’s mooring, and an old rusted anchor attested to that spot of “lake ownership.”

In Casco, aged mooring markers could be removed from the water, and updated by the person legally using the mooring.

Morton also touched on mooring registrations and the possibility of collecting fees.

“I assume once you assign a registration number, that number would follow that mooring,” he said.

“Again, the idea of a fee: If we get really involved with enforcement, and it takes up time, it may be that we need to hire someone other than our CEO,” he said.

Some waterfront property owners may be resistant to the changes — especially ones that lighten their pocketbook, he said.

“Requiring people to have a state regulated mooring buoy — that may get as much contempt as anything we do. People may not want to give up that orange Clorox® jug and be forced to buy a state-mandated buoy,” Morton said.

According to Murphy, the objective of the ordinance is to maintain the health of the water quality and the safety of people recreating in the water. In addition, mooring placements are not permitted to infringe on navigation or neighbors’ access to the water.

“The waters are the property of the people of Maine. As soon as you stick your big toe in the water below the high water line, that is public property,” Murphy said.

 

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