A mooring ball sits above the frozen surface of Maranacook Lake in a cove between Alternative Manufacturing and Norcross Point last month in Winthrop. A new ordinance limiting moorings in Winthrop waters takes effect on Thursday, but some moorings already in the lake may be able to remain until July. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

WINTHROP — Some people will not have to remove existing moorings from local waters until early July, even as a new ordinance taking effect this week aims to reduce the number of anchors in lakes and ponds ahead of peak boating season.

A month ago, Town Manager Jeff Kobrock warned that an estimated 20 mooring balls in the landmark Norcross Point area of Maranacook Lake would likely be considered illegal under an ordinance taking effect this Thursday. The policy now requires people to own lakefront property in order to set anchor in Winthrop waters and aligns with guidelines set by the federal and state environmental protection agencies.

Kobrock said last month that the town didn’t want to wait until the middle of summer to enact the rules and was instead taking the month leading up to April 7 to educate the public as ice-out occurred on local lakes and ponds. He expressed hope that most everyone would be compliant and the town wouldn’t need to pursue potential fines.

But during an at-times contentious council meeting Monday night, Kobrock backed off from suggesting that illegal mooring balls needed to come out of the water as soon as Thursday, after a resident pointed out that the ordinance language includes a 90-day grace period for moorings that are already in the town’s lakes and ponds.

That would appear to mean that any existing moorings in the water that do not comply with the new ordinance have until Wednesday, July 6, to be removed.

A copy of the ordinance posted online states: “Any mooring that does not comply with this Ordinance must be discontinued and shall be removed by the owner who placed it within 90 days of this Ordinance becoming effective.”

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When asked by an audience member Monday night if the council had reduced the 90-day grace period to 30 days, Kobrock said no adjustments were made, and that if the document said 30 days, it was the result of a typo or clerical error.

The town manager previously told the Kennebec Journal that the ordinance, approved on March 7 and set to take effect April 7, was specifically timed to align with the thawing of local waters this season and because the town did not want to wait until the middle of summer to enact the rules.

Kobrock did not respond to multiple requests for additional comment on Tuesday.

The issue has drawn ire among some local boaters, who turned up in numbers at Monday’s council meeting. One resident asked if the ordinance could be put back on the agenda for further discussion, and said he would be willing to come to a compromise, such as paying an annual fee as a non-landowner to place moorings in the lake.

After a discussion about past attempts to reach out to the town concerning the ordinance, Vice Chair Anthony Wess, serving as chair in Sarah Fuller’s absence, hit the gavel and said the matter was not on the agenda and not on the table for discussion.

Councilor Linda Caprara said she also asked for the item to be put back on the agenda, but was refused.

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“They need to have their time, and they have a right to express their feelings about what we’ve done,” she said. “So you can sit there and gavel down anybody you want, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s not appropriate.”

Wess allowed the discussion to continue, giving residents two minutes each to speak.

One Winthrop resident asked about the number of signatures required for a petition to create a referendum question concerning this ordinance, and Kobrock said they would need roughly 750 signatures, or about 25% of the people who voted in the last election for governor.

When asked why that figure isn’t 10%, the state’s required petition threshold, he said the town’s charter requires 25%.

“The council is not in a position to schedule a referendum,” Kobrock said Monday night. “It would be a petition that is presented to the council that would require a referendum, but the council has taken its action and the mooring ordinance is in effect.”

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