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Newburyport City Councilor Larry McCavitt wants the city to adopt a measure that would place limits on where boats may be stored on residential property. This boat stored on 76th Street on Plum Island for several years has been the subject of several complaints prompting McCavitt make the proposal.

NEWBURYPORT — The practice of storing boats on residential property in the city is coming under the scrutiny of city lawmakers — and could soon face strict regulations.

City Councilor Larry McCavitt is proposing an ordinance to City Council Tuesday that aims to regulate, among other things, how close a boat can be to a property line (20 feet), what the boat can block (cannot block wind, light or air of an adjacent dwelling) and how far off the ground the boats can be (not to exceed 8 feet).

The Ward 1 councilor said the ordinance is the result of a situation on 76th Street on Plum Island, but it could end up affecting dozens of boat owners should it gain approval.

Ralph Steele, the city’s harbormaster, said like many oceanside communities, many in the city store their boats in their yards, at least 100 to 150 residents by his estimate. In fact, Steele said, when he had a sailboat he stored it in his yard, and it “used to block the sunlight from my neighbor’s house from October to May.”

“It is a common practice,” he said of storing boats on residential property. “In coastal communities people have boats, and they store them in their yards.”

On Plum Island, a large boat has been parked close to a neighbor’s house for several years. The owners of the boat rent the property and live out of state, McCavitt said.

But the boat remains, much to the disdain of neighbors.

“It has become a nuisance,” McCavitt said. “From the inside of this person’s house, you look out the window and all you can see is this boat. The neighbors have been totally uncooperative in fixing the problem.”

Those who break the rules would be fined $300, and it would be enforced by the police department, according to the proposal.

Annette Trivette, who lives in a house on 76th Street that is owned by her boyfriend’s parents, Linn and Ross Solomon, said the boat is so close to their home that it blocks the views to the Plum Island Basin from several windows and from their backyard deck.

She said the problem started several years ago when the neighbors, who could not be reached for comment, put the boat there for the winter. That was not ideal but was tolerable for the Solomons, Trivette said. But then the boat was left where it was throughout the year.

“It is really blocking our water view,” she said.

Last winter the problem grew worse, Trivette said. The shrink wrap that protected the boat during cold weather started to rip open and flap in the wind, “making a very loud noise,” right underneath the master bedroom’s window. It is now bare, but Trivette is not looking forward to shrink wrap reappearing this winter.

Since the Solomons bought the property in 2001, Trivette said they’ve tried several times to talk to the boat owners, without any luck. Trivette said the Solomons offered to help sell it, among many other propositions.

“That didn’t lead to anything,” she said.

The power boat sits close to Trivette’s house and next to a small strip of land they use to get to the backyard.

“It scares us that if it falls over someone could be hurt,” she said, adding that in that case property damage is also probable. “There are a lot of concerns; it’s not just about aesthetics.”

Trivette said the Solomons have also hired city-based attorney Lisa Mead, a former Newburyport mayor, to help.

McCavitt — whose jurisdiction includes the Newburyport section of Plum Island — said he and the building inspector could find no regulation on the city’s books to remedy the situation, and since the owners of the boat are uncooperative, McCavitt said he is looking to a new ordinance to help fix the problem.

“This is basically aimed at a specific problem, but it may solve or prevent future problems,” he said. “And I don’t want to create new problems with it by affecting residents with nonobstructive vessels.”

McCavitt says he knows that some of the wording in the ordinance will need modification, for instance to consider kayaks, canoes and other small watercraft; the length of the boat; and the distances from the property lines, which he said may be too restrictive.

He said the ordinance does not apply to those areas already zoned to allow storage, and therefore will not affect the large marinas along the waterfront. At the same time, the ordinance would affect many Newburyporters who store their boats on residential property throughout the city.

That’s why McCavitt will push for the ordinance to go to the council’s Public Safety Committee, where residents and officials can weigh in on the proposed ordinance.

“I’m putting this into the public venue to see if we can come up with a solution to this problem,” he said.

Steele said he can understand the ordinance to preserve neighbor’s property rights, but said the city may want to look to other large things — like motor homes and trailers — if they go forward with the ordinance as to not single out boats.

“It is probably not a bad thing, to protect homeowners,” he said.

McCavitt said such problems could be avoided if neighbors simply treated other neighbors with respect.

“We wouldn’t have to do these things,” he said. “It is unfortunate that we have to pass laws to get some of these things done.”



Keys to the Proposal

Aspects of what is prohibited:

n No person shall cause a Boat and/or Watercraft to be parked on any property within twenty (20) feet of any lot line.

n No person shall cause a Boat and/or Watercraft to be parked on any property so as to block the wind, light or air of an adjacent dwelling.

n No person shall cause a Boat and/or Watercraft to be parked on any property in such a manner such that the top line of the hull exceeds eight (8) feet off of the ground

Safety aspects:

n Any person causing a Boat and/or Watercraft to be parked on land for more than five (5) continuous days, shall cause said Boat and/or Watercraft to be secured, stable and safe from falling and/or rolling in any manner whatsoever. Should said Boat and/or Watercraft be covered in any manner said covering shall be securely fastened so as to prevent tearing and/or causing noxious noise resulting from blowing wind.

Enforcement:

The city marshal shall cause written notice by mail or personal service to any person who shall be in violation of this division. No complaint shall be issued by a pole officer until thirty (30) days after such has been given, nor to any other person until forty (40) days after written notice has been given to the city marshal by such person of the alleged violation. A condition declared unlawful by this division shall be deemed to give rise to a separate offense on each day during which it exists after the giving of notice to the violator as herein provided. There shall be a $300.00 penalty for each offense hereunder.

Source: proposed ordinance submitted to City Council by councilor Larry McCavitt.

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