Once upon a time there was a town board that was trying to do something very helpful for its constituents.
Complaints were surfacing about boat owners who were mooring their boats in a lake (Oscawana) in a manner that was deemed disruptive and unsafe. When it turned out this handful of boat owners was not even from the area but from another state, that really made local residents mad. They say they asked politely for these Connecticut boat owners to cease and desist and were met with a resounding "No!"
Enter Putnam Valley's Local Law 11 of 2022. Close readers of this website may remember it from this introduction.
The clear goal of the town board was to put something on the books that would enable them to force these non-resident boat owners to park their marine vehicles elsewhere. The idea was that the steep fines associated with a violation ($500 a week, and possible boat confiscation) would be sufficient to drive the perpetrators away and make local residents happy. Who could argue with that?
Unfortunately, the way the law was written, it risks ensnaring resident boat owners on other town lakes who were not the intended target.
Town officials are now stuck in the position of trying to defend the new regulations at Lake Oscawana while assuring others that they're not at risk of being fined for lacking a mooring permit.
Depending on the day and the official, these explanations go something like this:
- This wouldn't apply to you because your lake doesn't allow gas-powered boats
- This wouldn't apply to you because NY State law Section 448.4 states that no one needs a permit if their mooring is less than 100 feet from their shoreline property. (Unfortunately, according to a representative at the Bureau of Ecosystem Health at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), this is a regulation of the state's Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and that department doesn't have jurisdiction over this issue, the DEC does.)
- This wouldn't apply to you because you're part of a "smaller lake community"
- This wouldn't apply to you if your buoy is for a raft
- This might apply to you, but it depends on the type of anchor you want to use
There simply aren't enough hours in the day to get to the bottom of this.
Maybe we can all take some comfort from considering how this new law will be enforced. According to the resolution, this unenviable task falls to the town's code enforcer, otherwise known as Richard Quaglietta, our already over-worked building inspector. With no town boat at his disposal, imagine how happy the county sheriff will be to get out on the water to investigate boat tags. The better bet is that Lake Oscawana residents will tip off town officials, leaving the rest of us to our own devices.
You might be wondering why the town board didn't write a more tightly scripted law that would have focused on the particular issues disturbing residents at Lake Oscawana. At a district lake meeting in early March, Supervisor Jacqueline Annabi said that laws need to be blanketed to cover all lakes. This is interesting given that there are plenty of other local laws where this blanketed approach has not been taken, including three year septic pump-out rules at some lakes (Oscawana) vs. five years at others (Peekskill and Roaring Brook). Or the 2020 law banning the use of de-icers at Lake Oscawana - and only Lake Oscawana.
If you remain in doubt about whether you need a permit for a mooring, Supervisor Annabi recommends that you call the town's District Clerk, Karen Kroboth, at 845-526-2160.
That woman deserves a raise!