Issue 46: Yachting Solutions, or Problems?

By: Ron Huber

All Rockland is a’roar over Yachting Solutions LLC’s well-intentioned, but overambitious initiative to expand its presence in the city’s inner harbor.

The plan’s gradual unveiling during recent Harbor Management Commission and City Council meetings will culminate at City Council chambers on February 14th at 5:30 pm with public comments and a full bore presentation by Yachting Solution LLC and its consultant Mike Sabatini, followed by a question & answer session. (This schedule according to City Councilor/Mayor Valli Geiger.)

The city council chambers promise to resound with the ire of a cross section of harbor users adamantly opposed to their displacement and to the degradation of the harbor as a whole.

Who benefits? Who loses?

Numerous opinions have arisen, of which these stand out:

State of Maine? Submerged lands lease payments and corporate income taxes.

Federal Government? Taxes on fuel sales (Megayachts are thirsty beasts!)

City of Rockland? Loses much, gains nothing.

Public? Nope. Let’s count the ways: 1. Reduced access between inner harbor and bay. 2. The public’s scenic vista out to the Fox Islands would be significantly reduced. 3. The annual Parade of Sail would lose its access into the inner harbor via the South Channel, providing spectators with stunning, close-up views of Maine’s fleet. 4. Public fishing bottom historically open in winter, would be reduced. 5. Rockland’s South Channel would be closed to the windjammerd’ Parade of Sail and many small boat users, and turned into mooring sites. 6. Inner harbor entry and exit routes would be limited to the federal channel, which would pit paddle, sail and power small pleasure craft to thread their way amongst ferries, Coasties, fishing boats, cruise ships and other commercial vessel traffic.

What does Yachting Solutions get?

Revenue from slips, from servicing megayachts and prestige in mega-yacht circles, thanks for federal tax dollars that will pay for 2,200 feet of new dockage at the facility, solely for eligible transient vessels,100-amp and 480V 3-phase power, in-slip fueling, and conversion of the existing gazebo into a private transient boaters’ lounge. YS is doing just fine.

What’s to be done?

Number one Task: Designate South Channel as an officially recognized municipal navigation channel. This is a matter of public safety and public convenience. This historic route must not be closed off. Extinguished. But it well could as plans proceed.

Here’s how to keep it open: Maine state law MRSA 38 §2. Rules for channel lines; enforcement lays it out in one paragraph:

The municipal officers of all maritime towns and plantations, other bodies empowered to regulate municipal harbors and the county commissioners in the case of maritime unorganized townships may make rules and regulations, with suitable provision for enforcement, to keep open convenient channels for the passage of vessels in the harbors and waterways of the towns or townships for which they act, and may establish the boundary lines of those channels and assign suitable portions of their harbors and other coastal and tidal waters within their jurisdiction for anchorages.

Rockland, like all Maine coastal towns, can designate harbor channels. Rockland can follow the simple formula described above to “make rules and regulations, with suitable provision for enforcement.” Then we can send the decision off to the cartography services to cement it into the official record.

Yachting Solutions can be a good harbor citizen while still enjoying rising revenue by deepsixing at least half of its plan and focusing on the rest. Forget the wave attenuators/megayacht piers and other piers that would reach across the inner harbor, choking South Channel and blocking irreplaceable scenic bay views out to the Fox Islands from the public landing. Doing that would be on the wrong side of, among other things, Maine’s scenic laws, which, refined by years of litigation make such a viewshed degrader legally untenable, as Samoset learned to its chagrin some years ago. Any wave attenuators should be well out in the harbor and of a scale that benefits all the harbor, not only one privatized corner.

If Yachting Solutions grows within its footprint – and a smidgeon beyond – and supports keeping South Channel open, then doubtless it will earn the respect and trust of all Rocklanders, and be able to pursue its growth goals without stamping on the goals of others, including those of us whose goal is simply to take in the bay in its scenic majesty from the shore and on board, whether with family, friends or solo.

A little give and take will go a long way, Yachting Solutions!

 

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