Harbors reconsiders residency

Thu, 12/30/2021 - 7:45am

The Harbors Committee continued its discussion of private moorings in Great Salt Pond, specifically focusing on the long waiting list. There are 290 mooring balls in the pond, with a waiting list of 688.
“It’s no secret it’s almost impossible to get a mooring here,” Member Gary Pollard said at the meeting on December 9. He suggested that “in principle,” the committee ought to figure out how to give residents “a leg up over nonresidents.”

Member Carl Kaufmann agreed, saying “maximum priority” should go to island residents. The waiting list is divided into residents and nonresidents, with Harbormaster Kate McConville verifying that new moorings are issued in a 3:1 ratio of resident to nonresident. There are 225 residents and 463 nonresidents on the list.

Pollard pointed out that the definition of what constitutes a resident could use some work, suggesting that “in the spirit of the word,” resident should mean someone who lives on Block Island year-round. He proposed a three-tiered system of year-round people, second-home people, and nonresidents.

In its ordinances, the Town of New Shoreham defines a resident as someone “who resides full-time in the town.” There are exceptions whereby enrollment in college, or fulfilling military service does not affect residency status, and there is also an exception for up to three months a year to
be spent off-island for any reason.
Currently, in the Harbors section of the town ordinances, a resident is defined as any real property taxpayer on Block Island. The result of this broader definition is that any homeowner can get listed as a resident for purposes of the moorings waiting list, regardless of whether they actually reside on the island or not.

Member Bill Koch agreed that “islanders should have priority,” but disagreed with the tier system, saying “the avenue to streamlining is not adding more bureaucracy.”

Member Patrick Evans mentioned that the committee has started to address the issue by adding an annual fee to stay on the list. McConville confirmed that she is also working to get people who do not use their mooring to relinquish it, and was purging the list of people who did not pay
the annual fee.

The committee also suggested increasing the amount of time an owner has to use their mooring each year. Currently, a mooring owner is only required to put their registered boat on their mooring for 24 hours. McConville relayed to the committee that the owners will call when they are coming out, and Harbors staff will verify the boat and place the annual sticker on it sometime during the 24 hours. She said there are about 100 owners that use their moorings this way. The remainder of the year, the owners sometimes loan the mooring to friends and family, or the
Harbormaster may rent it out on a nightly basis if it is not in use.
The committee suggested extending the required time to at least two weeks, if not 30 days. McConville pointed out that no changes could be made for 2022, but changes could be made for 2023. She also mentioned that the extended time on the mooring would not have to run consecutively. Even still, Evans said that this type of change could help whittle down the list. McConville agreed, saying the 24-hour sticker system “is a little ridiculous.”
The committee agreed to continue the discussion, with Evans advising the group not to rush into anything.