2012-05-17 / News

Harbor panel hears two cases

New ordinance language says charter boats cannot use private moorings

The Harbor Commission heard two appeals at its May 9 meeting, including one where the panel upheld the harbormaster in a matter involving R. Rand Ross and a commercial charter boat tied to his private mooring.

Ross said he needed “guidance” from the harbor commissioners to help him continue an economical arrangement with charter boat Capt. Don Miller. Miller has been using Ross’ mooring for his boat, the Quintessence.

Ross said he and wife, Jill Smith, and their young son, Joshua, enjoyed sailing but had been hiring a captain to take them out on the water.

“Over the last few years, when we wanted to go sailing, we contracted with Don Miller to be available to take us out on his boat, which has been on one of our moorings,” Ross wrote in a 2011 letter.

The arrangement made sense because his wife had undergone knee replacement surgery and was recuperating, and his son was only 10 years old.

“Given Jill’s condition and Joshua’s age,” the letter went on to say, “we do not want the hassle, the responsibility, the cost or the diffi culty of owning, or, in particular, having to maintain any boat.”

He went on to tell the commissioners he leased Miller’s boat for six days of the week. The exception was Tuesdays, where Miller used the Quintessence as a charter.

Ross had continued with that arrangement for several years but this year, the harbormaster refused to allow the Quintessence on a private mooring and cited revisions to the harbor ordinance as the reason.

The Town Council adopted Jamestown’s revised harbor ordinance in November. The 24-page document reflects three years of effort by the harbor commissioners, who ultimately were satisfi ed that the new language in the ordinance fairly represented their intentions.

In fact, one of the harbor commissioner’s intentions, according to Commissioner Edward Mc- Guirl, was to prevent charter boats from tying up to private moorings.

Ross changed his application to request a guest mooring and said he had “fully” met the criteria in the new ordinance. He acknowledged he was trying to find a way to continue his arrangements with Miller and the Quintessence under the new ordinance.

“But this is exactly the type of thing we wanted to avoid when we changed the language last year,” said Michael de Angeli, chairman of the Harbor Commission.

Regardless of the intention, Ross pointed out, the ordinance didn’t contain language that would prohibit putting a commercial boat on a guest mooring, and also didn’t say the decision would be at the harbormaster’s discretion.

“I’m looking for a way to get what my family wants to do under the ordinance,” Ross said. “I don’t want to piss anybody off. My reading of the rules that have been published now permit me to do this.”

“You’re arguing the language of the ordinance?” McGuirl asked.

“That is correct,” Ross said.

McGuirl later asked Ross if he deliberately changed the renewal application to the guest category to exploit a loophole in the ordinance.

“You have the nub of it,” Ross replied.

Police Chief Ed Mello, who serves as the executive director of the Harbor Commission, agreed the ordinance didn’t specifically say the commercial vessels could not use guest moorings.

“Perhaps the solicitor does need to look at the language,” Mello said. de Angeli said the case might end up with the solicitor, but meanwhile, the commissioners could make a ruling.

The ordinance, he said, does not allow the owner of a private mooring to “treat himself as a guest,” de Angeli said.

“No,” Ross said. “I’m treating him as the guest.”

“But you have the boat six days out of the week,” de Angeli countered.

“There’s no lack of transparen- cy here, that’s for sure,” McGuirl added.

“I applaud your honesty,” Commissioner Jake Farrell told Ross. Farrell went on to say that he thought his honesty might be “what the problem is.”

Ross said he wasn’t trying to trick anybody, but only wanted his family to enjoy the water.

However, the harbor commissioners rejected his appeal.

After the meeting, Ross said he would accept the Harbor Commission’s decision. He intends to hire the Quintessence again this summer, but said Miller will not tie up to the Ross family’s mooring.

“He’ll have to find his own mooring,” Ross said.

In another matter, the Harbor Commission granted the appeal of Alexandra Kent, who was seeking a temporary exemption for the second year in a row.

Kent said her family has held the mooring off Green’s Pier 41 years but was “between boats” and wanted to allow Paul Cronin to use the mooring this summer.

Harbormaster Sam Paterson said he didn’t have the authority to grant the request. The question about Kent’s situation went to the commissioners because this was the second year in a row Kent had requested a temporary exemption.

Kent said she had allowed a tenant to use the mooring last year, but “it didn’t work out.” The mooring was used but only for a couple of weeks.

The commissioners voted to grant her appeal.

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