Panel Will Try Again to See Village Set Rules for Activity in Outer Harbor

Members of the Harbor Committee review the harbor management chart that has been developed in association with a proposed overhaul of the village waterways code at a work session of the Harbor Committee on December 5. From left, the panel’s environmental consultant Charles Voorhis; panel chair Mary Ann Eddy; panel attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr.; panel member John Parker; Mayor Mulcahy (not visible), and panel member Will Sharp.

Derailed by unexpected opposition last winter, a major revision of the village’s waterways code proposed by the Harbor Committee to regulate mooring and anchoring in the outer harbor got a boost last week from Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy.

The mayor, attending a work session of the Harbor Committee on December 5 to discuss the legislation and its associated harbor management chart, told the board to reintroduce the proposal — developed by the panel over more than two years of discussions — once it irons things out with Harbor Master Robert Bori and other concerned parties and critics so it can be implemented in time for the summer season.

The proposal would formally create an “Outer Management Area” beyond the breakwater in an area more than 1,500 feet from shore that was formerly regulated by the state, setting rules for mooring, anchoring and other activities there.

The state handed jurisdiction of the area, some of which the East Hampton Town Trustees also regulate, to the village in 2016 at Sag Harbor’s request because of increased activity and concerns about village liability for boats abandoned there after severe storms.

Drafted under the leadership of Harbor Committee member John Parker and the board’s attorney at the time, Denise Schoen — who is now Mayor Mulcahy and the village trustees’ attorney — the proposal called for all boats staying for two weeks or more to check in with the harbormaster, provide contact and insurance information and obtain permits for anchoring or mooring. It also would have barred seaplane landings and takeoffs in the area.

The proposal was the subject of two public hearings last winter as well as an unusual Village Board work session with private stakeholders. The Harbor Committee thought it had the harbormaster and Village Board’s support but signs of skepticism, if not outright opposition to the proposal, surfaced in January.

Then-mayor Sandra Schroeder and Trustee Ken O’Donnell both indicated they had some doubts, with Mr. O’Donnell referring to “over-legislating” as something the village should avoid. Mr. Bori appeared to agree, telling the mayor additional regulations weren’t necessary because “everything went pretty smooth this summer.”

Ms. Schroeder and Mr. O’Donnell have since left the Village Board.

The leaders of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard worried that the channel as depicted in the revised harbor management chart that the Harbor Committee developed to go with the new rules impinged on their docks. Residents of the Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah communities also worried about large boats anchoring long term off their beaches and running launches through, and anchoring in, their swimming area.

It all “turned out to be more complicated than we thought,” Mr. Parker said at the committee’s December 5 work session with the mayor.

Based on comments during past meetings, many details remain to be worked out, including definitions and rules for commercial operations; the placement of buoys to delineate areas where mooring won’t be permitted; whether or not to require permits for mooring or anchoring or merely require skippers to check in with the harbormaster; and whether or not time limits before permits are required should be cumulative or consecutive.

“Sandra kept saying we need to know who’s out there,” Mr. Parker said, even though she then seemed to side with Mr. Bori and Mr. O’Connell.

“There was some stuff going on outside the confines of the Harbor Committee,” said the panel’s chair, Mary Ann Eddy, apparently referring to the opposition that stalled the proposal.

Mayor Mulcahy, in calling for the panel to reintroduce the proposal, told members to “sit down with Bob [Bori] and fight it out with him.” She said she didn’t want to see the proposal until he and the East Hampton Trustees were on board.

With luck, she said, the proposal could be ready to go before the Village Board again in February 2020. If the trustees support the proposal this time, they would set a new public hearing for March and, if the public supports the legislation, adopt it by April.