August 15, 2018
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Floating homes aren’t houseboats and a Maine town will vote on banning them

BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
The bright red houseboat owned by Steve White is docked at the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Aug. 20, 2014.
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By Abigail Adams, Lincoln County News
Updated:

EDGECOMB, Maine — Edgecomb voters will soon decide whether to place a temporary ban on floating homes while the town develops regulations to govern them.

On Feb. 14, the Edgecomb Board of Selectmen voted 2-1 to hold a special town meeting to consider the moratorium.

The town plans to schedule a public hearing before the special town meeting with both most likely to occur in March, Chairman Jack Sarmanian said.

Selectman Mike Smith cast the only opposing vote to the special town meeting, due to its proximity to the annual town meeting in May.

The planning board and the ordinance review committee requested that the moratorium be considered quickly so the town would have some recourse if someone applied to build a floating structure, Sarmanian said.

The planning board initially approached selectmen in December with a request for a moratorium due to informal inquiries in the community about floating homes.

Floating homes are permanent structures that differ from houseboats with outboard motors that are movable, planning board Chairman Jack French said. Houseboats fall under U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers regulations; floating homes do not, he said.

It is strictly up to municipalities to govern floating homes, and currently Edgecomb has no ordinance to regulate them, French said. Issues such as how to tax floating structures and access for emergency responders were raised in December.

Water and sewer systems for floating structures are also among several issues the ordinance review committee must grapple with, French said. There is little precedent for an ordinance on floating structures, with only a handful enacted in Maine.

The ordinance review committee must look to municipalities across the U.S. for examples to review while it prepares an ordinance that makes sense for Edgecomb, French said.

The moratorium will give the ordinance review committee six months to develop the ordinance, placing any application for a floating structure on hold. French said he anticipates that the ordinance review committee will use the full time period to develop the ordinance.

The regulation of floating homes is a nationwide issue, Sarmanian said.

“We have three rivers in Edgecomb. There’s a lot of water here,” Sarmanian said. “We need to pay attention to it.”

 


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