WEBSTER – At a Special Town Meeting on December 5, 2011, Webster voters approved a citizen-sponsored warrant item (Article 9) that would restrict the size of boats allowed on Webster Lake to 40 feet in length.
The State’s Office of the Attorney General yesterday disapproved the proposed article because “the Town lacks the authority to adopt by-laws regulating boating on Webster Lake.”
The decision was based on Massachusetts General Laws 131, Section 45, which limits the general regulatory power of cities and towns to “great ponds” that are less than five hundred acres in size. Webster Lake has 1270 acres.
The Attorney General also rendered moot Article 10, which sought to limit the operation of commercial vessels to between sunrise and sunset. This article was intended to rescind and replace a time restriction article approved at the October 17, 2011, Town Meeting that had already been disapproved by the Attorney General’s office on April 19.
The AG report recommends that the Town either file for special legislation to authorize the Town to adopt by-laws regulating Webster Lake or to petition the Massachusetts Environmental Police, Division of Law Enforcement, to amend the DLE Webster Lake regulations to include the restrictions outlined in Articles 9 and 10.
The report noted that the office had received correspondence from Webster’s Town Counsel, as well as communications from residents.
One residents’ letter urged approval of Articles 9 and 10 on the basis that Webster Lake is actively being used by the Town of Webster as an indirect source of water supply, thus exempting the Lake from the application of M.G.L 131, Section 45. However, Town Counsel confirmed that no water is being taken directly from Webster Lake for water supply purposes, nor did Town Counsel contend that it was.
The report also notes a communication from a resident citing DLE regulations that refer to “boating activity authorized by the Town of Webster and approved by the Division of Law Enforcement.” The AG confirmed with the DLE that this reference cannot be construed as a “grant of authority to the Town to adopt by-laws governing Webster Lake.”
Both of these warrant articles were intended to stop a proposal by local businessman Christopher Robert to bring a paddle wheel boat to Webster Lake for history and scenic tours and special events.
Assistant Attorney General Margaret J. Hurley, Chief of the Central Massachusetts Division and Director of the Municipal Law Unit, signed the opinion.
- Friday, 11 May 2012
- Posted in Categories: : News