September 18, 2018
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Camden board says no to outer harbor pier ban

Handout | MCT
Handout | MCT
An aerial view of Camden Harbor, Maine.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

CAMDEN, Maine — Voters will not get to say whether they want to ban private piers in the outer harbor.

The Select Board voted 3-1 Tuesday evening to support keeping the current ordinance that allows private residential piers in the outer harbor. This came despite unanimous support of the town’s planning board and harbor committee to enact such a pier ban.

The vote by the Select Board means that proposal will not be on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Eugene McKeever, chairman of the Camden Harbor Committee, said the outer harbor prohibition would be in keeping with the town’s comprehensive plan, which recommends the town counter market forces that encourage residential development along that section of the harbor.

McKeever pointed out that Camden Harbor is internationally known as a beautiful harbor and should be protected.

Ben Ellison, a member of the harbor committee, said the harbor is becoming more crowded with additional boats and moorings. He said the first new private pier approved in many years was built about two years ago. He said that after that was built, there were complaints from people, including the Camden Yacht Club.

He pointed out that piers are built over public property and that there is no unalienable right to have a private pier.

Ellison said even if Select Board members oppose the proposed ban, it would be shameful if they did not allow the public to vote on the matter through a referendum.

Al Johnson, who owns property along Bay Road in what is considered along the outer harbor, said there is a pier on one side of his property and a ramp and float on the other. He said he would like to have a pier and float on his property.

He decried the “one size fits all” ordinance being proposed by the town boards.

“I don’t see anything being taken away from the beauty of the harbor by having a pier,” Johnson said.

The Select Board’s 3-1 vote, however, means the pier ban proposal will not go before voters. Voting to keep the current law that allows private piers in the outer harbor were Chairman John French Jr., Martin Cates and Donald White Jr. Board member James Heard voted to support the proposed change. Board member Leonard Lookner declined to vote.

Lookner said the Select Board should stand behind the unanimous votes of the planning board and harbor committee.

Cates said the town should not slap on any more regulations, which he called sweeping for the possibility that one or two more piers could be built.

White agreed, saying he could not understand the need for the proposed ban.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote. “I don’t see anything being taken away from the beauty of the harbor by having a pier,” was said by Al Johnson.

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