Naples dives into docks ordinance

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — This year at the Naples Town Meeting, residents will consider eleven ordinance amendments.

A few of those are road-related. One is a posting-of-roads ordinance that was simply never officiallly accepted as an ordinance in the Town of Naples. The other is accepting Madison Heights Association as roadways and cul-de-sacs to be plowed by the town. This winter, the town took over the plowing and that will continue depending on the outcome at the town meeting.

Also, a couple of ordinance warrant articles are amendments to the Shoreland Zone Ordinance. Both are regarding aquatic structures — one would remove the 6-foot-width configuration; and the other would permit increased square footage of docks.

The public hearing on the Aquatic Structures Ordinance was held in mid-April prior to the Naples Planning Board meeting. Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) representatives were on hand to talk to the board.

No residents of Naples showed up to speak during a public hearing on an amendment to the Aquatic Structures Ordinance. However, about a week earlier, the Naples Board of Selectmen dove into the possible impacts of a proposed amendment to an ordinance that governs docks.

Selectman Jim Turpin brought up the topic on March 26, but it was not on the agenda for that evening. Turpin had spoken with LEA Executive Director Colin Holme as well as reading numerous articles highlighting the research done on docks’ impact to the health of bodies of water. Basically, Holme had told Turpin that bigger docks might mean more boats and that motorized boats can adversely impact the health of the lakes. Also, docks are located in a zone where much of the aquatic life exists, Turpin said.

“There are studies in the Midwest,” Turpin said, explaining that a dock on the water is like an umbrella blocking the daylight needed for aquatic life below the surface of the water. One of the studies looked at a water body where there were 50 docks per mile. In the places where the density of docks was 50 per mile of water, the overall health of the water dropped by 8.6 percent, Turpin said.

He reiterated that is almost a 10 percent reduction in the water quality.

“My concern is this: my own opinion might be outweighed. I feel compelled to say this since no one asked questions” about the environment during the previous board meeting, he said.

“I don’t want to end up with an algae bloom or a fish kill that happened because there were a million bad decisions we made,” Turpin said.

He had started off referring to the meeting that took place on March 12.

“We had presentations from both commercial dock companies. Mr. Grattelo spoke passionately about waterfront landowners paying thousands of dollars in taxes. Regardless of what they pay in taxes, they don’t own the water,” Turpin said.

“We are stewards of the water,” he said, adding it was the elected officials’ job to guard the environment.

Chairman Jim Grattelo countered some of Turpin’s comments.

“The original conversation was about docks going from 300 to 500 feet,” Grattelo said, stressing that his concern was the people should be able to control the configuration of their docks.

“People should be able to design their docks. If I don’t have a boat, I might want a square dock with room for two chairs,” he said.

Also, not everyone who replaced and expanded their docks would go out and buy another boat to fit the increased space, Grattelo said. Only a small percentage of existing docks might increase in size, he said.

Addressing Turpin’s comment, Gratello said that the canopy from trees blocks sunlight, too.

“There is much more shade from the canopy of the trees that is required than any dock is going to do. LEA and the state has made it perfectly clear that no one can cut a tree of more than one-third of its branches — that creates an enormous canopy,” Grattelo said.

Turpin countered that concept.

“Ultimately, the trees make a positive impact on the lake that the dock doesn’t,” he said. “Out in the West, they are trying to get the water quality back. They have semitransparent docks.”

“We want to have a well-written dock ordinance, not an 18-minute rush job,” Turpin said.

Grattelo said it was preferrable to get the proposed ordinance amendment to the 2018 Town Meeting.

“There is no way we can go another year” without an ordinance amendment, Grattelo said. “People have to go another year without being able to replace their docks.”

“Our Mooring Policy self-polices the number of boats,” Grattelo said. The proposed amendment “is not going to increase the size of boats. I cannot imagine people going out to buy a second boat because they have a dock.”

Selectman Kevin Rogers said, “Configuration is the big thing. A lot of people have big docks out there.”

The amendment is now a warrant article for the 2018 Town Meeting. Per usual, the public will have a chance to speak when the warrant article is on the floor.

The proposed ordinance admendments are available for review and inspection at the town clerk’s office, or online through www.townofnaples.org. They will also be provided at the town meeting.

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