Two boats are moored in late October at the south end of Maranacook Lake in Winthrop. The Town Council has agreed to review a controversial ordinance that required people who do not own shorefront property to remove their moorings this summer. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

WINTHROP — The Town Council has agreed to review its controversial mooring ordinance after a group of boaters threatened legal action against the town and claimed officials had conflicts of interest.

The group of local boaters have sharply criticized the ordinance since it was passed by the council earlier this year. They say the policy, which requires people to own shorefront property to set anchor within 200 feet of the shoreline, unfairly targets people with moorings on a cove at the south end of Maranacook Lake and that council chairperson Sarah Fuller should have recused herself from voting on it.

Fuller said at a council meeting Monday that there “is no conflict of interest,” after being accused by residents multiple times of personally benefiting from the ordinance.

Winthrop Town Council Chairperson Sarah Fuller Kennebec Journal file

The council voted unanimously to conduct the review during its next regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 5.

Although the only discussion topic regarding the ordinance on Monday was for councilors to set a date for the review, tensions ran high as residents spoke out about the ordinance for several minutes.

Boaters opposed to the ordinance say Fuller should have recused herself from voting because she is vice president of van der Brew, a brewery located near the cove where the moorings were targeted and where docks could later be installed.


Mooring owners cited a 2020 email from between Fuller and the presidents of van der Brew and Alternative Manufacturing Inc., or AMI, as proof of her conflict of interest. In the email, Fuller wrote that the installation of docks could benefit local businesses by attracting more people to the area, adding that she would recuse herself from any further discussion. She said van der Brew in particular had received many requests for a dock at the shoreline.

Winthrop property owner Lee Sandler spoke on behalf of the boaters during the meeting and told the council that engaging in a conflict of interest is against the law.

He said that if the council repeals the ordinance and revisits it by discussing the matter with residents more transparently, then all the pending legal action would “go away.”

Fuller said that blackmailing the council is not productive, and Lee briefly left the podium. When he returned, he was told to sit down as another resident was next in line. As he continued speaking, Fuller pounded the gavel three times and Lee directed an obscene hand gesture toward the council before sitting down.

Sandler later apologized to the council and asked why Fuller did not recuse herself from voting on the ordinance.

“There’s no way van der Brew would have any financial gain or impact from a mooring ordinance at all,” she said.


Fuller said that any deal regarding docks would be through the town and AMI, a company that she has no control or ownership of and that owns the lot the docks would be built off.  She said the town would get revenue from the docks, and that van der Brew would not manage or control the docks, or have any benefit from docks if they are installed after the moorings are removed.

She added that she has a 10% synthetic stock in van der Brew, receives no money for her role as vice president and would not directly financially benefit from the installation of docks on nearby property.

Critics have loudly protested the town ordinance ever since the council adopted the rules this past April and put up signs. Winthrop Town Manager Jeff Kobrock said in April that Norcross Point was the only area with the signs, and the mooring ordinance is part of the redevelopment project, but not a “major element.”

The town gave boaters until July 6 to remove illegal moorings or warned they could face fines. At the end of the summer, some critics launched a petition drive to pressure the council to repeal the rules.

On Monday this past week, councilor James Steele motioned to repeal the ordinance, but the motion did not receive a second. The council then voted in favor of holding a review of the ordinance at the December meeting.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: