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Lanesborough Drafts New Dock Bylaws

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
11:35PM / Wednesday, February 12, 2014
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The Selectmen sent the new bylaw to town counsel for legal review.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The dock debate isn't over.

A committee is planning to propose a new docks, rafts, buoys and moorings bylaws that will rescind the law put in place in 2012.

Docks along Pontoosuc Lake have been a heated issue in town for years and officials had hoped to alleviate neighborhood arguments with a bylaw.  

Even then, the scope of the laws were narrowed and still faced opposition. Now, the committee has drafted what the town feels is a good compromise.

"I like the fact that they've seemed to have gotten a sign off from all of the positions," Town Administrator Paul Sieloff said. "If they clean it up and it is a good text, we would repeal the existing bylaw, replace it with this and do away with all of the controversy."

The new law places the Conservation Commission in charge of overseeing it and a 5-7 member panel can be appointed to assist in docks-related issues. Permits for docks, rafts, buoys and anchored floats are valid for one year and must be granted by the harbormaster. All docks must comply with state law.

The law calls for no dock to be longer than needed for water access and be no more than 50 feet offshore and no more than 300 square foot in area. The dock can be closer than 25 feet from a boundary of an adjoining property but not less than five feet without neighbor approval. The dock cannot impede access to the lake from the abuttors' property and sharing a dock can be done with an agreement.

Two or more docks are allowed as long as they don't exceed 300 square feet total unless more than 100 feet of shore line is owned, then the square footage is expected comparably to the size of the frontage. No docks can restrict the public right of lateral passage along the perimeter of the lake. Docks are recommended to be removed in the winter to avoid damage by ice.

Rafts or floats cannot exceed 200 square feet and cannot be more than 75 feet from the shoreline. The swing circle for moored boats, gloats or rafts must not be less than 25 feet and all sides of must be equipped with reflective material. Rafts and floats must be removed over the winter.

The floats or rafts may be in a neighborhood right of way if approved by owners and the harbormaster. A dock can only be in a right of way if approved by the Conservation Commission and licensed by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The application for a dock in a neighborhood or private right of way must start with written permission from the right-of-way owner. In narrow rights of way, the dock must be kept to the side to allow for swimming and fishing access.

Docks, floats or rafts in front of a right of way must be shared with others who also have also rights. The licensee is allowed to use only half the boat tying capacity and the rest is shared with other owners of the right of way.

On public rights of way, floats, buoys and moorings must be approved by the harbormaster and conform to the new law. Docks can only be placed with approval from the Conservation Commission and licensed by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Docks in public rights of way must be shared with the public as well as having access to the lake.

The committee also crafted fines for various offenses. Parking on private property to access the lake is a $50 fine; blocking the right of way used for dock or lake access is $100; littering and or property damage is $100 and excessive noise is $100.

If a dock is installed is in violation of a DEP licenses, the violator is charged $25 a day. If a dock is not structurally sound, the owner may be fined up to $25 a day. If a boat is tied to a dock in violation of this law, it is $100 per incident. If the licensee of a public, neighborhood or private right of way refuses to share with those entitled to use it, it is a $250 fine.

The nine-page document is still in draft form but will likely be finalized before town meeting. The draft is now in attorney hands for review.

"They believe this is an extremely good compromise," Sieloff said. "I think they've done a good job covering all of the issues."

In other business, the town is sending out a second town census mailing because of a lack of response to the first. Additionally, officials moved back the annual mailing until January as to not conflict with holidays.

Sieloff also said he will be removing a $26,000 line in the town's budget that was intended to supplement school lunches, which was annually running in deficit.

"I'm going to roll in the additional funds into the school budget," Sieloff said, adding that it will be up to the school to ensure that budget line is balanced. "It's really putting the onus on the school district to run it more efficiently."

The town typically sets aside $20,000 per year to help the school lunch program. This year, the cafeteria posted a $6,000 loss.


Tags: bylaws,   docks,   lakes, ponds,   

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