Kent’s Landing boat launch fee violates town ordinance

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — On Monday evening, David Garcia was at home watching the live selectmen’s meeting on Cable TV.

He had planned on staying home. But — when he heard about the Town of Naples charging people to use the boat launch at Kent’s Landing — his plans changed.

Comments were made that a town ordinance forbids nonresidents to use the beach under any circumstances. That applies to the boat launch — it’s for Naples residents only.

“In this ordinance, it is pretty clear, if you are not a resident, you cannot use our boat landing — unless there is ice on the water,” Naples Town Manager John Hawley said.

“In the past, we’ve collected fees from nonresidents but we seem to be violating our own ordinance,” Hawley said.

The ordinance states that Kent’s Landing can only be used by Naples taxpayers and residents and their guests.

However, nobody at the selectmen’s meeting knew for certain the history of why that was decided.

Garcia knew the history behind Kent’s Landing.

So, he hopped in his vehicle and drove down to the town hall. He sat down in a chair in the back row. Selectman Bob Caron II recognized him. Then, the chairman gave him the okay to speak on the topic that had been on the floor a few minutes earlier.

Garcia told the board that he was on the land use committee that reviewed the purchase of Kent’s Landing and how that land would be used. He helped to draft what would become a warrant article to purchase the beachfront property.

“The rule is: It is for residents only, even the boat ramp,” he said.

“When that piece of property came up to buy, they formed a committee, and said it’s going to be for residents only. It was me and nine other people. The state said it would step in and develop it. We said, ‘No, it is for Naples residents,’” Garcia said.

Subsequently, the voters at town meeting approved the purchase using only local tax dollars with the caveat that only residents could use the beach property, he said. The state money that had been offered to the town would have come from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which was willing to develop Kent’s Landing to create a public boat launch on the south side of Long Lake, Garcia said.

The selectmen asked for a clarification on the meaning of guests. They asked if that included guests of local hotels and inns because some out-of-town customers received guest passes to Kent’s Landing/The Town Beach as part of their vacation package.

Garcia said that guests were people visiting residents who lived in Naples. Naples residents includes those who live here year round and seasonally, he said.

“How do we know if someone is a resident? The only way to know is with a facility sticker” in the windshield of their vehicle, he said. “The guests would be the people in the vehicle with them.”

He said that many other towns have public beaches or boat launches that are designated to be used only by the residents and taxpayers in that town.

Garcia is involved with a town land and parks committee, which was formed a year ago. The committee has been reviewing all the town land including Edes Falls Park, the Plummer Memorial Sports Field, and the undeveloped Begin Estate lot by the fire station as well as the town beach and Kent’s Landing.

Recently, the town manager brought up the ideas of improving the way the boat-launch fees are collected and opening up the beach to nonresidents at a cost.

Hawley was reviewing how much had been collected for boat launch fees in the past when he realized that the town should have never been collecting those in the first place.

“We collected $160. It’s not going to break our bank to not collect,” he said “That being said, we are not going to collect the fees anymore.”

Selectman Bob Caron II entertained the idea of making a formal request to move the Kent’s Landing ordinance to the Naples Ordinance Review Committee.

However, audience member Roger Clement advised the town to talk to legal counsel about changing the ordinance

“Does this open up legal issues? If we are going to change this, are we going to get into legal issues w/ residents who say, ‘Wait a minute, we already voted on that,” he said. “You need to get a legal opinion.”

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