By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Marine Resources Advisory Committee discussed an across-the-board increase in fees for almost all water related activities requiring permits at its 1/4/24 meeting.
Fairhaven Harbormaster Timothy Cox told the board he met with the Town Administrator and they were recommending increases to all fees for parking and permits.
The Committee generally considered the proposed increases too high, and voted to recommend smaller increases.
The agenda only listed parking fees for the boat ramps, and shellfish permit fees, so the committee only voted on those items. They will vote on mooring fees, Union Wharf dockage fees, and waterways fees at the next meeting.
The Town Administrator proposed an increase from $7/day to $10/day, and $70 for the season from $50 for the season for Hoppy’s Landing, and for the Pease Park/Seaview Boat ramps. Hoppy’s Landing is a separate permit because all money raised from fees there goes into a separate revolving account and can only be used at Hoppy’s Landing. Pease Park and Seaview have a combined permit and those fees go into the general fund.
The proposed shellfish permit fees would go from $30 for residents to $50 for residents; and from $135 for non-residents to $175.
MRC Chairperson Michael McNamara called the proposed increases “aggressive,” and broke down each one by percentages.
“That’s a 40% jump,” said Mr. McNamara about the boat ramp parking fees. “I feel that’s really aggressive. I know the town is looking for money, but to penalize the boaters like that I think is unreasonable myself.”
As for the shellfish fees, and other fees, he said, “Wow. These are really, really, big jumps.”
A comparison of other towns showed the new fees exceed all the other towns.
Boat ramp parking fees in New Bedford are $7/day and $55 seasonal, $25 for commercial; Dartmouth is $7 and $60; Wareham is $7 and $50; Mattapoisett and Marion are $10 for seasonal; Plymouth is $10 and $100.
The committee discussed the parking at Hoppy’s Landing, which had been paid, then was free, and then was paid again starting last year. They discussed the possibility of only charging from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Mr. Cox said he has had no problems since October. If people are sitting in their cars or walking the property, he does not bother them about paying for parking.
The board discussed why they need to raise rates. The cost of maintenance at Hoppy’s Landing has increased a lot. Just the shells they used for the parking lot have quadrupled in price, said Mr. Cox.
The revolving account was very low on funds.
MRC member Robert “Hoppy” Hobson noted that the parking fees from last year were about $10,000 more than the year before. He asked for the numbers, but Mr. Cox said they do not have the year end numbers yet.
The committee discussed a variety of options, all lower than the numbers proposed by the Town Admnistrator. Mr. Cox noted that the parking fee has been $50 since he started in 2007.
MRC member David Hebert suggested they go up 20%.
“I think the fees are good where they are,” said MRC member Michelle Potter. “We’re comparable to other towns.”
She noted that they got rid of the parking meter at Hoppy’s Landing that had cost the a lot of money. She said they went from free to $7/day.
“It should bring everything up,” she said. “I think those fees are fine.
Hobson said he would go along with the TA’s recommendation.
Mr. McNamara noted that the TA wanted a 40% increase, “and Mr. Hobson is good with that.”
Mr. Hobson did not reply.
MRC member Andrew Jones said they needed more information before making a decision. He said he did not agree with the steep increases.
Mr. McNamara said they got information two meetings ago that showed “quite a windfall” from the new parking fees by the end of the summer. He said the committee has been tracking the “dwindling account” at Hoppy’s Landing. The new fee “turned that around quite quickly,” he said, but admitted they did not have the final number.
Mr. Jones said he was not “completely opposed” to going up, but he was “definitely not in favor” of the proposed rates.
“I think that’s way too much money,” said Mr. Jones.
In the end, the committee voted to raise the parking rates for the boat ramps to $8/day and $60 for a seasonal pass.
The vote was 4–1 with Ms. Potter voting “no.”
The board also voted on Shellfish permit fees.
The proposed increase from $30 to $50 for residents is a 66% increase; while the increase from $135 to $175 for non-residents is a 30% increase, said Mr. McNamara.
“Which seems odd,” he said. “You’re attacking your residents more than non-residents. Very strange.”
Residents 62+ and veterans get a free lifetime permit; non-resident veterans pay the resident rate, as required by state law.
The board discussed with Mr. Cox the cost of seeding the coves with the polluted quahogs from the Taunton River at a cost of $22,400 per year or about $27 per bushel.
Mr. Hobson noted that the commercial quahoggers do not even get that much for the bushel at market.
“So why are we subsidizing the commercial people,” he asked.
Mr. Cox said they lost their biggest place to dig when the state close down the outer harbor.
The committee discussed how many permits have been issued to varying groups.
Ms. Potter said if the commercial guys are not even making what the town is paying for the quahogs, “That’s kind of a no-brainer. I would say stop the quahog [relay].”
She said they should just let everything propogate itself.
Mr. Cox said if they stop the seeding, they would not sell any licneses because there would be no quahogs to dig.
“But we’re getting all these black ones that are orange inside,” she said. “I won’t eat them.”
She asked Mr. Cox if he thought the quahogs would not have babies.
He said they would, but not in the amount they need.
He noted that the commercial diggers are not allowed in Round Cove, and they are only allowed in part of North Cove.
He said when he started, they were selling 50 commercial licenses, now they only sell abot 10. The commercial fee is $400.
Mr. Jones suggested they look at raising the age for the senior license and making the Veteran’s license annual, not lifetime.
“We have to look at everything,” said Mr. Jones. “Because everyone is taking. It’s a take fishery. They’re taking stuff that the town is paying for. There’s a lot of natural stuff out there, but not necessarily enough for everybody.”
In the end, the committee voted to increase the shellfish permit fees by 30%, which is $39 for residents and $175 for non-residents.
The vote was 4–1 with Ms. Potter voting “no.”
The MRC is an advisory committee. The Select Board regulates the fees.
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