State approves Greenwich’s Harbor Management Plan

August 24, 2017

GREENWICH — The town’s Harbor Management Plan has gotten the state’s approval after more than three years in the works.

State officials sent the Harbor Management Commission a letter saying the plan, delayed for years by debate, legal writing, editing and scrutinizing fine print and interpretations, was good to go, said HMC Chairman Bruce Angiolillo Wednesday.

“We are pleased to have worked with the Greenwich Harbor Management Committee to accept the first-ever Harbor Management Plan for Greenwich,” wrote Dennis Schain, communications director for the Connecticut Department and Energy and Environmental Protection, in an email this week.

“This plan will guide the orderly use of the waters along the town’s coast and help improve coordination between DEEP, the Harbor Management Commission and the Harbormaster,” he wrote.

Municipalities along the coastal Connecticut use their respective harbor management plans to make decisions regarding docks, piers, moorings and other regulations taking place 10 feet from the shore and farther.

A major goal of drafting Greenwich’s first Harbor Management Plan, Angiolillo said during its final stages, was for town officials to retain home rule.

Under the town’s unique Special Acts from the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Board of Selectmen — and by delegation, the Harbor Management Commission — is given more control over delegating and regulating moorings than other coastal towns.

Greenwich is the only town with the special acts regarding its harbors; other coastal municipalities follow provisions outlined in the Connecticut Harbor Management Act, passed in the 1980s, when managing harbors.

The duties described in the early ordinances have long caused disputes between the current commission and six-year Harbormaster Ian MacMillan, since responsibilities given to the Selectmen overlap some of the duties in the state-defined harbormaster’s job description.

The plan now approved by DEEP allows MacMillan to issue permits, his primary responsibility, while officially recognizing the Selectmen as having a standing in Greenwich harbor business, able to review decisions made by the Harbor Management Commission and hear grievances between the state and town officials, state and residents, and town and residents.

With a plan in place, commissioners also will be able to nominate candidates for the Harbormaster position when it opens. Without a plan, the governor makes the selection; if the plan is adopted, the governor will make his appointment from among the Harbor Management Commission’s recommendations.

Angiolillo said Thursday the commission was ready for the next steps.

“The Commission now looks forward to completing the process this fall when it presents the plan to the RTM for its consideration and approval,” he said. “The town-wide contributions to this effort cannot be overstated and are a testament to our community.”

Commissioners expect the plan to go before the RTM this October. If it is approved, it will be adopted by ordinance as regulation for Greenwich Harbors.

But in the confirmation letter, Land and Water Resources Director Brian Thompson offered a disclaimer with the approval.

Thompson said although approving the plan signifies DEEP’s recognition that its provisions are consistent with Connecticut law and the Connecticut Harbor Management Act, it does not mean DEEP agrees with the plan’s provisions or approves of its activities or proposals.

Once approved by the town, the plan will be subject to yearly review.

“As the State of Connecticut’s approval letter underscores and demonstrates,” said Angiolillo, “taking the time necessary to draft a comprehensive, thoughtful and durable Harbor Management Plan for Greenwich was the right way to proceed.”

E: JTuriano@greenwichtime.com; T: @jturianoGT; IG: @greenwichgreen