by Bill Dexter • MPA board member
There’s an accelerating trend nationwide, where houseboat owners moor their vessels to use them as a primary residence, vacation home, and/or rental property. A number of cities in the US such as Seattle, WA, and Newport, RI, have passed laws to ban or significantly curtail this practice Concerns include discharge of so-called “gray water” (water from sinks, showers, etc.) directly into the water, as well as other pollutants including noise, congestion, and even blocked views from the shore front.
In early August, the MPA learned that the Town of Bridgton Select Board would discuss house boats. After caucusing with the MPA Board, President Chip Wendler submitted a three-page position statement to the Select Board. Our proposal featured three important suggestions, including:
- No overnighting should be permitted on Bridgton’s lakes
- One should only be allowed to have a dock or mooring in Bridgton’s lakes if one either owns lakefront property, or has deeded lake access
- Bridgton should hire and equip a “Harrison Level” (as explained in more detail below) seasonal Marine Safety Officer to enforce these new rules and the pre-existing State Regulations including boater safety and boating courtesy
Bill Dexter served as the MPA representative at the meeting, and spoke in favor of a “no houseboats” ordinance. The meeting was well attended, and several others spoke to this issue including LEA’s Colin Holme, and a number of homeowners on other lakes in the region. All were staunchly opposed to allowing houseboats on Bridgton lakes.
The Bridgton Planning Committee Head, Deb Brusini, recommended prohibiting, or at least significantly regulating overnight stays, lodging, or living on our lakes. The primary reasoning for prohibition is safeguarding our lakes, as well as insuring lakefront homeowners value, privacy, and peace.
While no specific verdicts were made, the Board: “Recommend(ed) initiating staff research to determine if/how Bridgton could prohibit or regulate overnight stays, living, lodging on our lakes… we are not suggesting to restrict all types of overnight mooring, but overnight living, whether temporary or permanent.”
There were also discussions regarding mooring ordinances, bad boating behavior, and the hiring a seasonal Marine Safety Officer. Bridgton has already contacted nearby towns including Winthrop, Naples, and Harrison, all of whom are wrestling with these issues. There seemed to be general Board support for hiring a seasonal Marine Safety Officer, similar to an already existing position in Harrison. This Officer would randomly patrol the largest of Bridgton’s lakes to enforce compliance with safe boating, mooring, and/or dock regulations.
It seems as if the Town of Bridgton Select Board is quite tuned in to the very real potential negative effects of allowing houseboats on Bridgton lakes, and appear committed to maintaining the quality and character of Bridgton’s lakes.