Harbors Committee gets update on Management Plan

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 5:45pm
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Kevin Cute of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council attended the Harbors Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 18 to provide an update on the Harbor Management Plan. The committee last spoke with Cute in December 2020. Since that time, Cute has been reviewing and cross-referencing the plan to a checklist from CRMC to make sure all language is in accordance with state guidelines and regulations.

Revisions to the HMP were approved by the Town Council and sent to the CRMC about a year ago for review. Although Cute had some minor edits that needed review, overall, he expressed satisfaction with the plan.

“You deserve to have this plan approved as soon as possible,” said Cute. “My intent is to go back to the folks [at CRMC] internally – I would approve this for a five year right now. I will get some feedback and see where we are. It would be great to have a chat again and have a nice finalized plan that is approved for the next five years,” said Cute.

In a phone call later in the week with The Block Island Times, Harbormaster Kate McConville noted the HMP is “a working document. Every five years it needs to be updated.” The plan has not been updated for many years, stated McConville.

One of the minor deficiencies to the plan Cute brought up was the policy for mooring transfers.

“We all know this happens commonly – folks want to pass down moorings. It’s not really legal,” said Cute. “If someone passes down moorings, it’s monopolizing a piece of property everyone has a right to.”

“I spoke with our legal counsel and we came up with an idea: if you want to pass [the mooring on], you get one time. Then everyone else is on the waiting list. It’s a compromise, but [we are] trying to be fair to folks. We have to uphold the law,” continued Cute.

Cute stated McConville “took it a step further and wrote a sunset clause” for the one-time transfer to be used within two years before expiring.

“The purpose of this one-time transfer – these transfers will end. For me it was a five year period, for Kate it was two years… The person that receives that transferred permit can’t do it again. [The mooring transfer] dies when the person receives it,” said Cute.

Cute said he would return to the committee after speaking with CRMC’s legal counsel regarding the one-time transfer of moorings.

Recommendations for fee rate increases

McConville opened up a new discussion with the committee about increasing the present fee rates in Old Harbor. Dockmaster Josh Moore joined the meeting.

“Josh had reached out to me so that he could give his input on the Old Harbor fee rates. He’s the one managing them,” said McConville.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea. We can get into a discussion on what the amounts are… I’m just interested in what people are proposing for an increase,” said Moore.

The committee considered raising some of the fees in Old Harbor. Wharfage, in-season, would increase from $3 a foot to $5 a foot; the day rate of $1.50 a foot would go up to $2 a foot; and a one-hour minimum tie up would go from $18 to $25. McConville later stated in a phone call with The Times that the fee recommendations are not finalized, and were only up for discussion at the meeting.

When reviewing the fees for moorings, McConville suggested charging an additional fee to remain on the mooring waiting lists. There are three waiting lists: residents, non-residents and yacht clubs, and there is an initial $50 fee to join the list.

“Why are we charging them an extra fee?” asked member Carl Kaufmann.

“You’re going to see people get off the list. They’re just holding a spot. I think it’s going to clean up the list a lot,” said McConville. Currently, there are 211 on the resident list, and 445 on the non-resident list, with about 11 on the yacht club list.

Any changes proposed by the Harbors Committee must be approved by the Town Council before taking effect.