Friday July 13, 2012

LANESBOROUGH -- It's a slippery issue.

On Pontoosuc Lake, where lots are often narrow and many residents have rights to access the water, dock placement has been a frequent source of strife. This month, the town will take another crack at a bylaw officials hope will bring some clarity to what many describe as an emotional, controversial issue on the lake's north shore.

"Right now, because there isn't a written process, there are disputes and disagreements, and that's what motivates us to try to get this approved," said Select man Bob Barton. "It's really just a mess, and it is not easy to clear up because the mess is well defended by people who don't want to see things change."

The bylaw, which clarifies the permitting process for those building residential docks, rafts and moorings, also proposes to protect the rights of people living in the lake neighborhood to access the water via certain rights-of-way for recreational uses like kayaking.

Because some house lots along the shore are narrow, docks with boats attached may encroach on those rights-of-way, said Ronald Tinkham, a member of the Pon toosuc Lake Roads Committee.

A similar bylaw appeared on Lanesborough's town meeting warrant in 2011, but was tabled for further study. Lee Hauge, the town's harbormaster, has spearheaded the effort to craft new regulations. He could not be reached for comment.


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While the state Department of Environmental Protection regulates dock permits, the proposed bylaw is the town's attempt to bring some local influence to the issue, Tink ham said.

"What Lee is trying to do is put criteria in place that gives the town some judgment associated with these permits," Tinkham said. "And a lot of people are saying, ‘I don't want the town to have any judgment, I don't even like the state requirements, I want this whole thing to go away.' "

Many people have had docks without permits for decades and may worry that they'll suddenly be responsible for an expensive permitting process that Tinkham estimates can cost a minimum of $600.

The issue of who gets to use the lake and how dates back to colonial times, said Pittsfield harbormaster James Mc Grath, who manages the city's portion of Pontoosuc Lake. The right to fish and fowl at these so-called "great ponds" was extended to all residents centuries ago.

"We, like Lanesborough, have realized that this is a complicated issue," McGrath said. "It's one that for a number of reasons really needs a close look."

In Lanesborough, a public hearing on the docks bylaw will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 24 in the community room in the basement of Town Hall. A special town meeting to allow residents to consider the bylaw is currently scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31 at the Lanesborough Elemen tary School .

But town administrator Jos eph Kellogg said that if no clear consensus on the bylaw can be reached at the public hearing, the special town meeting will very likely be postponed.

To reach Amanda Korman:
akorman@berkshireeagle.com
(413) 496-6243
On Twitter: @mandface