BEAUFORT — Town commissioners here took no action Tuesday on an ordinance that tries to address safety issues in the area’s waterways by regulating anchored boats.
The meeting took place in the train depot on Broad Street and was a continuation of the board’s regular August meeting, which commissioners had recessed. Mayor Richard Stanley told the audience at the opening of the meeting that commissioners would not be voting on the proposed ordinance. Instead, Commissioner Marianna Hollinshed gave a review of a committee that met Aug. 20 to discuss the topic.
Prior to any discussion, the board voted to excuse Commissioner Robert Campbell, who could not attend.
The ordinance, when previously proposed, required boat owners anchored in Taylors Creek, Town Creek Basin and Gallants Channel to register their vessels if staying for more than 48 hours with the Beaufort Police Department and removed them prior to the arrival of a hurricane. If the owner didn’t remove the vessel, the police department would have the right to do so.
That proposed ordinance also requires vessels to have a minimum of $50,000 liability insurance coverage and violators of the new law could be fined up to $500 a day.
Boaters were opposed to the proposal during the board’s Aug. 13 meeting, so commissioners set up a committee to further discuss it. That committee includes Capt. Horatio Sinbad, Capt. Lee Sykes of Towboats U.S., planning board chairman Doug Doubleday, planning board member Ryan Neve and Town Creek Marina operator Steve Tulevich. Ted Tyndall, assistant director of permits and enforcement with the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, was also in attendance, as were town staff and commissioners Hollinshed and Ann Carter.
Ms. Hollinshed said the committee meeting was civil but stalled over several key issues. One of those was jurisdiction; Town Creek is a Harbor of Refuge and falls under the jurisdiction of the county. The Beaufort Police Department, she said, does not have authority to board a boat without permission or cause, while other agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard or the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, do have that authority.
Ms. Hollinshed said there were also concerns about the accountability of how information collected during the registration process would be used. The commissioner said she believed this issue may be related to tax registration or in some cases the person simply might not want to be registered with anyone or have anyone “know their business.” She added this was a general comment presented at the committee meeting and wasn’t specifically pertaining to the people present.
The final sticking point was over the enforcement of the proposed ordinance. That enforcement, Ms. Hollinshed said, was perceived as punitive. Requiring boats to leave the town’s waterways during times of hurricanes or other weather events without offering alternative harbor was a major issue, she said. Many seek refuge in the town’s waterways, including those who are required to vacate dockage, those whose travels might be interrupted and those who can’t afford the haul-out offered by other marinas.
Ms. Hollinshed said that all the committee attendees agreed the unattended, derelict boats in the waterways were a problem, but were only a small number of the boats in the area. Attendees preferred a mooring field with oversight by the town and believed it would better fit the town’s image.