Two boats are moored Tuesday at the south end of Maranacook Lake in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

WINTHROP — Local boaters are calling for a new mooring ordinance to be put on hold and are publicly posting documents they say undercut the basis for it as tensions worsen over the controversial new rules.

The boaters say the rules, which went into effect in July, target them unfairly. They also say there is a conflict of interest involving town officials and local businesses.

Winthrop resident Miranda Ketchen wrote a letter Oct. 18 to Town Manager Jeff Kobrock and the Town Councilasking that an item be placed on the council’s Nov. 7 meeting agenda to discuss conflicts of interest with the ordinance. The letter also asked that town officials immediately rescind the ordinance.

Ketchen is part of a group of more than a dozen people who own moorings in a cove at the south end of Maranacook Lake. Since the ordinance was passed, members of this group have questioned its validity and said they were unfairly targeted.

Two boats are moored Tuesday at the south end of Maranacook Lake in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We wanted the ordinance to be rewritten in a fair manner, so that we can still have use of the lake, which is completely possible,” said Miranda’s husband, Mike Ketchen. “But they didn’t have any interest in doing that.”

The group had a lawyer write a letter last month to town officials outlining conflicts of interest with the ordinance.


The policy requires people to own lakefront property to set anchor in any body of water in town. While there are about a dozen lakes and ponds in Winthrop, the town placed several large signs along the south end of Maranacook Lake warning that all moorings need be removed. Boaters with moorings in this area, known as Norcross Point, said the town was posting the signs to target that area.

Kobrock confirmed earlier this year this is the only spot in town with such signs. He also said the mooring ordinance is related to a redevelopment project for Norcross Point, but it is one of many components of the project.

The redevelopment project involves numerous upgrades and renovations to the area and a nearby public beach. One aspect of the redevelopment plan calls for an ordinance to eliminate moorings so they can be replaced with floating docks.

An excerpt of an email sent by Winthrop Town Manager Jeff Kobrock to the town’s attorney in June 2021. A group of boaters angered by the mooring ordinance published the email in a recent issue of the Community Advertiser.

One of the group’s primary complaints is that council Chairperson Sarah Fuller and Vice Chair Andy Wess should have recused themselves from voting on the matter because of conflicts of interest. Fuller is vice president of van der Brew, a nearby business that could benefit financially from the installation of floating docks, and Wess wrote much of the Norcross Point redevelopment plan and was in charge of a committee responsible for replacing docks and reviewing moorings in that area.

In documents boaters obtained from the town, Fuller discusses this conflict of interest in an August 2020 email to Kobrock and the presidents of van der Brew and another local business, Alternative Manufacturing Inc. Van der Brew and AMI share a building near the water.

She said van der Brew and other nearby businesses could benefit from people coming down the lake, docking and spending money, and van der Brew in particular has received many requests for a dock at the shoreline.


A “Reserved” sign on a Norcross Point dock Tuesday at the south end of Maranacook Lake in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Fuller concluded that while this may result in benefits for everyone involved, she might need to recuse herself from future discussions because she has “an interest in all sides of this.”

About two years after sending this email, Fuller voted in favor of the mooring ordinance during an early 2022 council meeting, possibly violating the town’s code of ethics for elected and appointed officials. The Town Council was unanimous in approving the ordinance.

Since there is a threat of legal action against the town, both Fuller and Kobrock said Thursday they have been advised not to comment on the matter. Because of this, Kobrock also said he could not say how many warnings or fines the town has issued since the ordinance went into effect.

In a warning sent to Miranda and Michael Ketchen, Kobrock’s title is listed as “Mooring Officer,” and he writes, “The town is seeking voluntary compliance.” If they refuse to comply, he said, they could be fined up to $5,000 for each day they continue to violate the ordinance.

Daryen Granata, vice president of the State of Maine Harbor Masters Association, said Thursday the boaters contacted the association shortly after the ordinance was put into effect.

He said after looking into it, the association had a few concerns, primarily about the legality of Kobrock acting as a so-called mooring officer. The town’s ordinance draws on a part of state law concerning harbor masters, who must complete specific training courses to maintain their authority.


“Our concern was, if you’re going to exercise your authority and your ordinance based on Title 38, it’s pretty clear that whether you call it a harbor master, a local mooring officer or the town mooring police, it is coming under Title 38,” Granata said. “If it walks like a duck and it acts like a duck, then it’s a duck.”

A snowmobile club sign between two boats moored at the south end of Maranacook Lake in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Granata said anyone who is appointed as harbor master has one year after his or her appointment to obtain the proper training, but could legally operate without it until the year is up. The person would then need to be recertified every three years.

And while the town has sent written warnings to mooring owners, it is unclear if it has charged any fines.

Lee Sandler, who owns property in town and is a member of the group of boaters, said he is not aware of anyone in the group who has been fined as a result of the ordinance.

Sandler and the Ketchens say their concerns have continually fallen on deaf ears, and that seeking legal action now seems to be their only option. Earlier this year, the group began circulating a petition asking the Town Council to place a moratorium on the ordinance “for a minimum of one year to allow time to work out clearer details and find a more viable solution to the current mooring issues.”

Last week, they published a letter in the Community Advertiser containing an email from Kobrock sent in June 2021 to the town’s lawyer stating there have been more than 20 boats in the mooring field near van der Brew, and this number grows each year.


Two boats are moored Tuesday at the south end of Maranacook Lake in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In the email, Kobrock wrote the ordinance is an attempt to regulate the field out of existence, while “not being overtly obvious about singling out this mooring field.”

Sandler said he and others will likely move forward with legal action if the Town Council does not place the item on its Nov. 7 meeting agenda.

Sandler and the Ketchens said they would be willing to work with the town on a fair rewrite of the ordinance that includes concessions, such as limiting the number of boats allowed in the cove.

“We had no intention of suing the town, but this is a clear civil violation,” Mike Ketchen said. “If we want to push it that far, we’re prepared to file a complaint with the superior court.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: