PALERMO — The directors of the new Sheepscot Lake Association don’t want to tell swimmers what color bathing suits to wear, even if they had the authority.

Several of the more than 60 people at Wednesday evening’s organizational meeting argued that the proposed bylaws give too much power to the directors — power that could be abused by a future board, even if the present directors’ intentions are benign.

The organization’s purpose is to “preserve, enhance and protect the beauty and quality of Sheepscot Lake and its adjacent areas.”

So, dissenters said, “beauty” might cover the color of boats or even bathing suits. They cited examples from other lake associations — one, it was alleged, claims the right to review building permit applications before they are submitted to town officials — and from homeowners’ associations.

Other audience members said a homeowners’ association is totally different from a lake association. One man described a lake association as “a watchdog”; only state and town ordinances governing shorefront property have legal force, he said.

The draft bylaws were developed by a steering committee selected at a public meeting last summer. The group met last summer and communicated by email over the winter.

Wednesday’s debate continued for more than half an hour, moderated by steering committee member Elaine Cole, who said the organization would act as its members wanted.

“We the steering committee did not organize to be a militia” to regulate uses of Sheepscot Lake, she said.

Cole’s first call for a vote on the bylaws was rejected in favor of more discussion, after which an amended motion was presented.

The amendment provides that directors will call another meeting in August to discuss revisions to the bylaws.

Only people who paid $20 dues to join the association were allowed to vote. Dissenters, most of whom had not joined, protested against using rules in the unapproved bylaws to vote on the bylaws.

After the bylaws were approved by a margin of 24 to 4, many of the dissenters left the meeting.

Once the bylaws were adopted, directors were elected. The nine steering committee members proposed themselves as the slate.

Michael Boulet, who lives in Fairfield and owns lakefront property, asked if he could nominate himself as a director. When Cole said no, Boulet turned to the man sitting beside him, who nominated him.

After a lengthy ballot count, the original slate was declared elected.

Boulet said he had no specific agenda; he thought he could bring energy and a different perspective to the board.

The Sheepscot Lake Association directors are Ruth Ann Ahern, Roger Blomquist, Elaine Cole, Leonard Howell, Eileen Kirby, Gene Kirby, Gary Miller, Jean Restaino and Maureen Standish.

According to the bylaws, they will elect officers — president, vice president, corresponding and recording secretaries and treasurer — from among themselves.

In response to a query, Cole established that Blomquist is the only year-round resident on the board.

The Kirbys, who frequently visit the lake in the winter from their Belfast home, almost count, she said.

Eileen Kirby said 22 people signed up as association members during the meeting. The nine steering committee members have also joined, she said.

In opening remarks, Miller said the association has two main concerns: Protecting Sheepscot Lake from invasive plants and protecting water quality by educating landowners about run-off control.

Now that the organization officially exists, directors can apply for grants to fund appropriate programs, including courtesy boat inspections to spot invasive plants.

Mary Grow is a Kennebec Journal correspondent who lives in China.

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