Huntington town officials are studying a new $40 seasonal residential mooring permit fee to help cover the cost of harbor maintenance and cleanup, including removing wrecked vessels and building a boat owner database.
Currently, Huntington residents may moor their boats in town waters with a free permit. Nonresidents pay a $200 fee.
The proposal by Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci was pulled from a public hearing last Wednesday for additional consideration after council members Joan Cergol and Mark Cuthbertson said they would not support the measure, and Councilman Ed Smyth left the meeting before a vote was held.
"As to the mooring resolution, it is not our typical practice to enact on the same night as the public hearing, and based on the number of interested speakers, the Supervisor felt the Board needed additional time to contemplate the Code changes and accompanying rate increases," said town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo in an emailed statement.
Cuthbertson said in a telephone interview after the hearing that the proposed fee was "just another money grab" and that Lupinacci did not ask for input from Huntington boaters.
"It's something done with little to no consultation with the interested parties, the stakeholders," he said. "The boating community is very upset about it." Cergol could not be reached for comment.
Lupinacci said the proposal was a way to combat the costs and burden of dealing with wrecked vessels abandoned in the harbor, and help start a database of the owners of boats on the town moorings "to hold violators responsible for hazardous boating safety conditions," he said.
"The Town spent over $50,000 last year removing derelict and abandoned boats in an effort to keep the harbor safe to navigate and protect our water quality," Lupinacci said at the public hearing. "Taxpayers should not be on the hook for the consequences of irresponsible boat ownership."
Boat owners had "a number of questions and concerns," said Jacquelyn Martin, executive officer of the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, which has about 4,500 members. She asked board members if the permit fee could be kept to the same price as the town's beach permit fees to prevent sudden price hikes in the future.
Chris Pitfick of Northport agreed with the idea of a permit but not the fee. "I'd happily get the permit so there's accountability, but I disagree with the fee," he said at the hearing. "You should be more aggressively targeting the abandoned boats before they get here."
Northport resident Michael Bento also supported a no-fee permit process, telling the board, "I applaud you bringing the issue of derelict boats to the forefront. I do not think we need to bring a fee into this. We need to keep track of this, not add an extra tax on the residents of this town."
David Webber, one of the owners of Seymour's Boatyard in Northport, said he supported the idea because of how many boaters use the harbor now. "This new law only makes sense," he said.
The increase in boat traffic has strained the town's resources, said Huntington Maritime Services director Dom Spada.
"The fee isn’t a money grab," he said. "The fee is to build a database so we can keep track of what boats are in the harbor."
Huntington Mooring Permit
- Permits must be affixed to the transom of the boat. A second matching sticker with mooring number must be placed on the mooring ball.
- A mooring can be placed anywhere in Huntington town waters. No mooring may be placed within the lines of a channel or within 50 feet of a channel marker. A mooring cannot interfere with any boat or mooring placed previously.
- Nonresidents pay a $200 mooring permit annual fee.