Raymond Beach transformed from a dumping ground for passing motorists to a destination for boaters in less than a year.

However, the floating cafe that last summer helped change the reputation of the strip of sand along U.S. Route 302 is now sitting in a dirt parking lot down the road by the Sunset Variety convenience store.

As the owner of the Black Ghost Cafe faces thousands of dollars in fines for violating shoreland zoning rules, the fate of the beach has become uncertain.

The town has terminated a five-year lease with Jeff Pomeroy, who agreed to keep the beach clean in exchange for a free place to dock the 200-square-foot pontoon boat that he outfitted as a snack shack.

The problem was the boat didn’t float.

The pontoons failed the day that Pomeroy launched the boat onto Sebago Lake in July, said Chris Hanson, Raymond’s code enforcement officer.

It remained there, propped up on posts, through the middle of this month, despite the town’s insistence that Pomeroy remove it.

Because the cafe wasn’t capable of moving through the lake, it should have been considered a structure, not a watercraft, according to an opinion that Hanson got from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

State and local shoreline zoning laws prohibit structures from being in the water after Dec. 1, Hanson said. Violating that law is punishable by a fine of $100 per day.

The town’s Board of Selectmen awarded Pomeroy an extension until Dec. 25, but the date passed and the cafe remained, frozen in the icy lake.

Hanson sent Pomeroy a notice on Dec. 28 giving him two weeks to remove the structure before terminating the lease. It wasn’t until Feb. 18 that the cafe came out of the water, he said.

Now it’s up for sale, and management of the beach is up for grabs.

Pomeroy didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

The board will have to decide whether to entertain proposals from people interested in overseeing the beach next summer, or let it once again become the responsibility of the town’s Public Works Department, which previously had trouble keeping up with the accumulation of trash there.

The town shut down the beach in the summer of 2010 after the water tested high for E. coli bacteria. Although the water quality soon improved, town employees discovered dirty diapers, hypodermic needles and human feces left on the beach, and it remained closed.

Partnering with a private manager who could keep close watch over the property was the town’s solution to the trash problem. For the most part, it worked really well, officials said this week.

“The beach was policed every day and was probably cleaner that it’s been in years,” Selectman Mike Reynolds said.

Moveover, he said, the unusual concept of a floating cafe got people talking about Raymond.

“Boaters came from all over the lake to enjoy it,” he said.

Reynolds and board Chairman Joe Bruno said they’d like to see another partnership in place next summer. Despite the lingering zoning issues, they said they’d be happy to have Pomeroy come back with a new plan.

“We’re willing to listen to anything,” Bruno said.


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