BROOKSVILLE — What began with a literal storm in the summer of 2020 is now a legal one as the town and a local marina owner remain locked in a dispute over moorings in picturesque Buck’s Harbor.
Last week in Hancock County Superior Court, Jonathan Buck and his business Buck’s Harbor Marina Inc. filed an amended civil complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the town, its Harbor Committee and harbormaster. Two months earlier, town attorney Patrick Lyons of Eaton Peabody sent Buck a letter demanding immediate action to bring marina moorings into compliance with the town’s Harbor Ordinance and with a consent agreement the town and Buck had reached in September 2020. The letter asked for $30,000 in legal fees and warned that the maximum penalty for unresolved violations was $125,000. The town’s deadline for Buck to resolve the issues passed Dec. 31.
“We are not making comments at this time,” Brooksville Harbormaster Debrae Bishop said last week.
Severin Beliveau, a partner at Preti Flaherty, represents Buck. “There’s always been hostile relations with the harbormaster and the marina,” Beliveau said.
Both the civil complaint and town records reference the storm. According to minutes from an Aug. 8, 2020, Harbor Committee meeting, “Harbormaster reported on a mooring dragging incident in the recent storm (8/4) and outlined her plan for enforcement of the ordinance. Applicable ordinance sections were reviewed and discussed. The committee expressed general support for the harbormaster in the circumstances surrounding the incident of August 4th.”
Buck’s legal filing last week states, “On August 4, 2020, a tropical storm passed through Buck’s Harbor. A vessel tied on to one of the Marina’s moorings without the Marina’s notice or approval, and the storm caused the vessel to drag on the mooring a short distance. On August 8, 2020, the Harbormaster and the Committee held an unnoticed meeting to discuss the incident.”
Subsequently, Buck received notice from harbormaster Bishop of violations of the Harbor Ordinance.
On Sept. 29, 2020, Buck and town officials entered a consent agreement to resolve the issues. The marina was to label each mooring buoy and pennant with information clearly displaying the maximum vessel length that could use the mooring. A third-party mooring inspector was to inspect all moorings to see that they were in compliance. The inspections were to be complete by July 2021. Buck was unable to compete all the work by that time.
The Nov. 23 letter on behalf of the town informed Buck the town was prepared to bring enforcement action in Maine District Court if the marina did not complete the labeling and inspection work by the end of the year.
“Considering 25 of your moorings have been in violation of the Harbor Ordinance and Consent Agreement since July 29, 2021, each mooring has reached the maximum penalty of $5,000, thus totaling $125,000 in penalties. If required to bring enforcement in Court, the Town will seek the maximum penalty for each mooring,” the letter states.
Buck alleges the town also violated the consent agreement.
“Contrary to the Consent Agreement, the Harbormaster has repeatedly approached or directly contacted the Marina’s clients and other users of the moorings in Buck’s Harbor to question the sizes of their vessels and to insinuate that the Marina are not in compliance with the Harbor Ordinance or the Consent Agreement,” the suit alleges.
Buck’s civil complaint also accuses several members of the Brooksville Harbor Committee of having conflicts of interest that should have precluded them from discussing and voting on matters related to the marina.
Furthermore, the suit alleges portions of the Harbor Ordinance are “unconstitutionally vague and improperly delegate authority to the Harbormaster.”
Reporter Jennifer Osborn contributed to this report.