Town Officials to Start Process of Crafting Law on Houseboats

Several boats at the Atlantis Marina have served as homes since last summer for several people.

Several boats at the Atlantis Marina have served as homes since last summer for several people.

WINTHROP – One thing is clear, Winthrop will have a bylaw that addresses the use of houseboats at area marinas, including Atlantic Marina off Pleasant Street. Officials expect to start working on a draft on April 15.

The Town Council’s Rules and Ordinance Committee, chaired by Phillip Boncore, met last week to update residents on the progress of developing regulations for houseboats at local marinas. The lack of regulations came to light last year when several boats arrived at Atlantis Marina and made themselves at home. Several residents of the Atlantis Condominiums, 550 Pleasant St., protested and pushed on the town for regulations.

Boncore said his committee has been collecting bylaws from various towns and agencies including the Coast Guard, the Army Corp of Engineers, California, Virginia, Seattle and Florida. Members have been reviewing the material and have also received legal advice from the town’s legal advisor, Kopelman & Paige.

“April 15 we will start writing the draft regulations,” Boncore said. “May 15 will be the final day.”

David Kelston, a condominium resident, asked if the committee was going to have “regulations with teeth in them.” Another resident, Marie Donahue suggested the marina have a manager.

“It’s like having a high school without a principal,” she said, adding that when one boat was hitting the pilings there was no one to call. She added that the people living on the boats are good people. She and public safety officials questioned who was shoveling the docks this past winter.

Atlantis Marina advertises “year round liveaboards” and 130 boat slips. The rental rates for the “liveaboards” is $150 a foot seasonally.

Friends of the Belle Isle Marsh sent a letter question the impact on the marsh. There has been debate as to whether or not “grey” water and/or “black” water was being discharged from the boats.

Houseboater Jim Shattuck said eight people were living in boats at the marina this winter. One condominium neighbor said they can’t verify whether the houseboaters are dumping illegally. Shattuck said they do shower but have no washing machines. He felt it was unfair and suspect that there was no concern about the bay until they arrived. He contended that one boat caught discharging was a 30-foot sport fisher with an elderly man operating it.

“He’s not a houseboater,” Shattuck said.

Councilor Nick Delvento said this is a townwide issue since there are several yacht clubs. He and Fire Chief Paul Flanagan said they are concerned with the health, safety, building and electrical codes. He added that there are 1,300 other boats in Winthrop. Flanagan said that E911 does not work off a cell phone and that there is no fire suppression system on the docks.

Delvento said the entire issue at the marina is like a triangle, but one of the sides wants nothing to do with the problem. The developer and owner of the marina, Gary DeCicco, has not been seen at any meetings about the marina.

“The law has to fit everyone where boats are docked,” Boncore said.

Flanagan noted that Atlantis Marina did have a booth set up at the winter Boat Show in Boston.

Sue Ellen Woodcock can be reached at [email protected].

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