(Photo by Brian P. D. Hannon)
(Photo by Brian P. D. Hannon)
Camden residents defeated a proposed inland moorings moratorium during a December 18 special town meeting that saw passage of two other warrant articles — confirming a parking lease and establishing a town charter commission.

A majority of the approximately 25 voters present raised their red voting cards to oppose a proposed ordinance establishing a 180-day moratorium on inland moorings, which would have prevented the addition of new moorings or other anchoring devices within the town’s inland waterways.

Moderator Deb Dodge oversaw a debate lasting an hour that focused on the language of the warrant article and the moratorium proposal, with some residents arguing the language was too broad and would create confusion and possibly unintended restrictions on shore property owners and others who wished to use the town’s inland water bodies.

Waterways including lakes, ponds and rivers are owned by the State of Maine and fall under its jurisdiction, but towns with adjacent property can establish ordinances for their use. Select board members had previously voted to place the moratorium on the warrant with the stated intent of providing time to study and draft a possible future ordinance for mooring oversight.

Residents voiced concerns that the language of Camden’s moratorium, which is similar to one recently passed in Lincolnville, would raise issues not only for moorings on its intended targets — Megunticook Lake and Megunticook River — but also for Hosmer Pond.

At times the discussion focused on possible wording changes and what select board member Marc Ratner called “spirit of the law versus the letter of the law,” but others countered that was not sufficient to pass a six-month moratorium that would be retroactive to October 16.

One example of the debate over wording was whether the term “new” referred only to moorings that had never been installed before or also included those being reinstalled at the beginning of each year’s warm-weather season.

Camden resident Peter Gross said he agreed with the intent of the measure, but wanted to be sure the language did not create difficulties for those who have used the same moorings and floats for many years. “I think the moratorium is far too broad and the language in the warrant article does not agree with the language in the moratorium,” he said.

After allowing prolonged discussion, Dodge ruled that the wording changes under discussion would constitute “substantive” revisions to the warrant article as it had been advertised by the town prior to the meeting. Making those changes would subvert the law by not allowing Camden residents who were absent to be aware of the final wording. The question was called on the article as presented on the warrant and subsequently defeated.

The first of two articles passed by voters authorized the select board to enter into a lease with option-to-purchase agreement for 150 spaces in a parking lot at 4 Knowlton Street and portions of a second known as the Knox Mill Parking Lot. The agreement with Knox Mill Holdings LLC is not to exceed 174 consecutive monthly payments of $5,000, totaling $870,000. After the lease period expires, the town will be able to take ownership of the lots.

In the final vote of the night, residents established a commission that will recommend revisions for a new municipal charter. The commission’s members will be appointed by the select board.