ROCKLAND – Along with the daily 500 passenger limit set for the peak summer seasons, cruise ships carrying 3,000 passengers or fewer will now be allowed to set anchor in Rockland Harbor during September and October annually, with no more than six ships total during those months.
Councilor Adam Ackor requested this amendment prior to an overall Council vote of three to two to create working stipulations while awaiting formal harbor review by a newly formed Harbor Commission.
Last week, the shoulder season cap was presented as no more than 2,500 passengers per ship and no more than 9,000 passengers per month.
Ackor told council that he’s received many emails and phone calls regarding cruise ships, both for and against. His increase in passenger allowance is his compromise within a subject matter that dominated the public forum portion of the Aug. 13 Council meeting for most of two hours.
“Nobody wins,” he said. “It’s ideal in my view to try to find some sort of common ground here, and put this to rest for a while.”
Council members voted unanimously on the amendment. However, Councilors Ed Glaser and Lisa Westkaemper voted against the overall ordinance.
“There’s widespread agreement that we need some form of limits,” Glaser said. “The question is still where should that line be.”
He stated having a problem with the numbers shifting multiple times in past weeks, and wanted the initial input groups to be updated first.
Glaser expressed disappointment that the onus has returned to Council members. All eyes have returned to City Chambers to set limits without having engaged the entire community, creation of a harbor research committee, and reserving money for an economic study, according to him.
He also took offense to some public comments that generalized the character of large cruise ship passengers. Glaser said many Rockland residents take cruises. To say that large cruise ship passengers are not welcome here is also saying that some of our own residents aren’t welcome either.
The draft now reads as follows:
Section 12: Rockland Harbor only has the ability to anchor one ship per day and to dock one small ship per day. In addition to this limited capability, there are daily and monthly passenger caps. The daily cap during the months of January - August and November - December is no more than 2 ships with no more than 500 passengers each. Daily and Monthly caps will be adhered to during the months of September and October. The daily passenger cap for September and October is 3,000 passengers and no more than 6 ships total from September to October. Those ships with visits already scheduled prior to the effective date of this order shall not be subject to these passenger limits. These passenger restrictions shall be in effect until such time as the City Council adopts a Harbor Management Plan superseding said limits.
At least 28 people expressed opinions from the speaker’s podium prior to the cruise ship vote. Multiple references and comparisons to Bar Harbor and its current 168 cruise ships, the Blues Festival, and the 15,000 attendees of the Lobster Festivals were voiced.
Passengers are polite, interested in the local history and culture, don’t require parking spaces, purchase items to ship home, are paying just to come to Rockland, and are gone by 5 p.m., according to some.
Others stated that festival attendees have a purpose in coming here, and spend more money.
Schooner Bay Taxi has created three-hour, or less, sight-seeing packages that are a hit with some sea visitors, according to the owner.
Lynn Archer, who keeps employees on the payroll due to the additional shoulder season income, declared her desire to join the Harbor Commission because of her passion for this subject, and despite her extremely busy schedule. Because she’s not a resident, she is welcome to attend meetings and express thoughts. She just can’t vote, according to Council members.
Benjamin Dorr, whose business, Curator, is not affected on cruise ship days, urged speakers to “do away with dogma and rhetoric” and have a real conversation after other individuals noted the existence of a new machine gun-laden Coast Guard vessel now patrolling Bar Harbor, the need to be protected from the “tsunami of price-conscious tourism,” and complaints of having to stand in line to order a sandwich at Main Street locales.
Rhonda Nordstrom’s Rheal Day Spa suffers on cruise ship days. Her customers all avoid the area those days, and Nordstrom wants to hear from the other area businesses who suffer as well.
Some residents said they moved to Rockland in order to avoid large numbers of people. Some residents said they returned to the area because of the increase in activity. Others want improved infrastructure, but not from the $87,000 generated from cruise ship fees.
“One of the problems with the specific complaints that people have about cruise ships is so often they’re not really about the specific problems,” Glaser said, later in the meeting. “They’re about the feelings that we have. It’s an emotional thing. And I think we can address almost all of the concrete problems that cruise ships may bring with an environmental cleanup plan or keeping out cruise ships that have a bad environmental record, or whatever we want to work on.
“Not that we’re rushing into this, because it’s taken us ten years to get to this point. But I also don’t see that we have a dire need at this point....Government works best when it works slowly and deliberately.”
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