PLATTSBURGH — Despite pleas to postpone the vote, City of Plattsburgh councilors approved a new moorings law.
The law outlines the city’s right to place boat moorings in certain areas off shore from city-owned land on the Lake Champlain waterfront.
Basically, the law allows for an imaginary line to be drawn perpendicular from the boundaries of city land out to 1,500 feet over the lake.
The city will be allowed to place moorings in those designated areas and charge boaters for their use.
“This does not deal with any other aspect of waterfront development,” Councilor and Mayor-elect James Calnon (I-Ward 4), said at a recent Common Council meeting.
“This is so there is a clear understanding of what the water rights are and so the development rights are well-defined.”
The law was proposed as the city moves forward in developing a marina-based venture on the waterfront at Dock Street Landing.
The city is seeking proposals from developers to operate a marine-based business there, with Jan. 16 as the deadline for plans to be submitted.
The city received plans earlier this year from Navtours, a local and Canadian-based company that operates boat tours on the lake, and Plattsburgh Boat Basin, which operates a marina and the Naked Turtle Restaurant next to Dock Street Landing.
The city opted to negotiate with Navtours, but a final decision will not be made until formal proposals are submitted.
Arthur “Sonny” Spiegel, an owner of Plattsburgh Boat Basin and the Naked Turtle, asked councilors at the meeting if they would consider postponing a vote on the moorings law “until more research can be done into the ramifications of this law.
“We are the only marina in the city, and it is obvious this law is intended solely for us, and yet we’ve never been asked about how it would affect us.”
The new law would eliminate about 11 mooring sites that Plattsburgh Boat Basin has been using over the years.
Spiegel said the marina has operated in the city for the past 18 years with no complaints.
The moorings law could affect not only the marina business but the Naked Turtle restaurant, which employs more than 100 people and generates healthy sales-tax revenue for the city, he said.
“We want to work with the city and make it a better place,” Spiegel said.
Matthew Doyle, an avid boater, said the city needs to make sure that public access to the lake is not affected.
“You should make sure there is open access for boaters to arrive in the city by water,” he said.
Councilor-elect Paul “Crusher” O’Connell (D-Ward 4) said the council should postpone the vote.
O’Connell felt the incoming council, which takes office Jan. 1, should decide on the law.
“We need more time so we can get some more information,” O’Connell said.
Fellow Councilor-elect Michael Kelly (D-Ward 2) agreed with O’Connell.
“It’s good to have a marina close to downtown; however, the speed of this is concerning,” Kelly said.
LAW CAN BE CHANGED
But Calnon said the city needed to move forward with the law so those considering submitting proposals can tailor their plans to the requirements of the law.
“We want the next council to select (a proposal) in time so that work can start next summer, but it’s hard to respond to an RFP (request for proposal) if you don’t know what the mooring law is,” Calnon said.
Councilor Chris Jackson (D-Ward 6) agreed with Calnon.
“You can’t have a plan until you define the boundaries, and all this does is define the boundaries,” Jackson said.
The law could be amended by the future council, he said.
Councilor Chris Case (D-Ward 5) said the city has been working on the new law since early 2013.
“We simply want to move this forward, and yes, it can be amended,” he said.
Councilors Timothy Carpenter (D-Ward 1) and George Rabideau (R-Ward 3) both said they felt the new council should be voting on the law.
“I am very uncomfortable shoving a law down their throats,” Carpenter said.
The new council will be voting on the 2014 budget a week after they take office next month, Rabideau noted, so why shouldn’t they be able to vote on the moorings law?
“We entrusted them with a $54 million budget, so there is no reason why they can’t be trusted with this new moorings law,” Rabideau said.
CAN’T STOP GOVERNING
Councilor Mark Tiffer (D-Ward 2) passionately objected to the line of thinking that the new council should make the decision.
“At what point do we stop governing,” Tiffer said. “It’s our job to do this.”
Tiffer said one of the problems with the lack of waterfront development is that there are no regulations, and moorings have just been thrown out there.
“This can be amended as we see what the ramifications are, but we have to start somewhere,” he said.
“Why have a last meeting if we are not going to do anything. Why have a last month? I am not going to sit here and not do my job.”
The new moorings law passed with a 4-to-2 vote. Calnon, Tiffer, Case and Jackson supported it, and Carpenter and Rabideau voted no.
Email Joe LoTemplio:firstname.lastname@example.org