March 29, 2020
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Coastal Maine town considers temporary ban on houseboats

BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
The bright red houseboat owned by Steve White, partner in Front Street Shipyard and owner of Brooklin Boat Yard, is docked at the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast.
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EDGECOMB, Maine — Edgecomb is considering placing a moratorium on houseboats and other floating homes until it has time to develop an ordinance to guide the town through what is currently uncharted territory.

Edgecomb Planning Board Chairman Jack French and member David Nutt attended the Edgecomb Board of Selectmen’s Monday, Dec. 19, meeting to discuss the reasoning behind the planning board’s request to place a moratorium on houseboats.

The moratorium would have to go through a public hearing and a townwide vote. It would put town consideration of applications for a houseboat or floating home on hold for a six-month period to give the Edgecomb Ordinance Review Committee and the planning board time to draft an ordinance.

The timeline for the public hearing and special town meeting to approve the moratorium will be determined at the next selectmen’s meeting, on Tuesday, Jan. 3, Edgecomb Board of Selectmen Chair Jack Sarmanian said.

Because of notification requirements, the earliest the town could hold a special town meeting is mid- to late January, Sarmanian said.

The planning board hopes to have an ordinance governing houseboats and floating homes ready for voter consideration at Edgecomb’s annual town meeting in May.

The moratorium, however, would take effect retroactively from the time it was first discussed and, with formal requests from Edgecomb’s harbor master as well as the planning board, the town is on firm footing to hold off on any application for a houseboat, Nutt said.

The need for an ordinance governing houseboats and floating homes was realized after an informal inquiry from a resident, French said.

Sandwiched between the Damariscotta and Sheepscot rivers, Edgecomb has a lot of waterfront property, French said, giving a sense of urgency to the need for regulation of houseboats.

“We want to do this as quickly as possible,” French said to the selectmen. “We’ve been hearing things on the street about what people want to do, and right now there are no regulations.”

The ordinance “will include everything we can think of” and may serve as a model for the rest of Maine, Nutt said, noting that few communities, outside of Portland, have ordinances to govern houseboats.

“We’d be setting a precedent,” Nutt said.

Whether houseboats are subject to property taxes or are only subject to boat excise taxes is one of several questions the ordinance review committee will grapple with as it works on the ordinance.

Fire safety and emergency response is another consideration to be addressed.

“We’re already working on it,” Nutt said of the ordinance. “We feel this is a critical issue.”

Selectmen agreed to move through the process needed to establish a moratorium quickly. “Thank you for being proactive about this,” Selectman Ted Hugger said.


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