After a cantankerous summer between shorefront property owners and some other users of Green Lake, Ellsworth city officials have decided to draft a potential ordinance in an attempt to keep the peace.
At issue is a floating structure that two local men, who call it a “house float,” anchored out in Green Lake this summer. Terry Pinkham and Jason Spinney do not own property on Green Lake and use a public landing to access the lake, where they like to hang out with friends at their floating one-room hang-out spot, which consists of a platform on two pontoons, a sliding glass door and a small roof deck.
But the use of the floating shack has upset some nearby property owners, who say the floating gatherings have been noisy and disruptive, and have hurt their enjoyment of their homes, many of which are seasonal summer camps.
On Monday, the Ellsworth City Council voted 5-2 to have city staff draft an ordinance that could restrict where Pinkham and Spinney — and others — keep their floating structures. Ideas for the potential ordinance include requiring owners of houseboats to register them with the city, and to not leave them in the water overnight unless they get permission from shorefront property owners to anchor or moor them in front of nearby houses.
Some Maine towns already have such restrictions in place, Ellsworth officials said.
Monday’s discussion was at least the third time the council has discussed Pinkham and Spinney’s floating den this year. It first came up at a council meeting in April and then was discussed again at a workshop in July, according to the Ellsworth American.
Councilors Michelle Kaplan and Gene Lyons on Monday voted against imposing restrictions, saying that people have the right to go out on lakes wherever there is public access.
“I think people have a right to recreate on the lake,” Kaplan said. “I don’t own the water. Nobody does.”
Pinkham also urged the council not to intervene. He said state law allows him to use the lake, and that each winter there are between 100 to 150 ice fishing shacks out of Green Lake and no one ever complains to the city about them.
“They’re way less prettier than our house float,” Pinkham said. “Nobody has a problem with those.”
Pinkham and Spinney’s structure has been moved to the northern end of the lake in Dedham since being brought to the attention of city officials. The fact that his structure has drawn so much attention from the city, Pinkham said, is “kind of ridiculous.”
Green Lake resident Audrey Tunney pointed out that state law requires ice shack owners to have their names and phone numbers posted on the shack, and Spinney offered to do the same with the house float. He said he and Pinkham have tried to be responsive to concerns brought to their attention by nearby property owners.
“I don’t think Ellsworth should waste its money on enforcing a [house boat] ordinance,” Spinney said.
Andy Hamilton, who owns a summer home on the lake, said he and other lakefront property owners have legitimate concerns about houseboats or the like that get moored in front of their homes indefinitely. Some of those concerns cited by others at the meeting include loud music, dumping trash on land and peeing in nearby woods — things that Pinkham and Spinney have denied doing.
“We did not bring this forward lightly,” Hamilton said.
Dale Hamilton, chairman of the city council (and no relation to Andy Hamilton), said it is important to strike a balance in how people use the lake. He said the city is not about to try to prevent members of the public from using the lake.
“I’m not advocating for and would not vote in favor of any ordinance that would prevent access to the lakes,” Dale Hamilton said. “That would never get my vote.”