News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 11, 2017
Stonington voters OK clam ordinance changes

by Rich Hewitt

It took just a few minutes Monday, May 8, for voters at a special town meeting to approve changes to the town’s shellfish ordinance.

The vote was unanimous, 14-0. A previous vote earlier this year ended in a tie vote defeating the motion to adopt the revisions, some of which had been state-required changes. Voters in Deer Isle approved the amendments to that town’s ordinance, raising concerns because the two towns, which work together on shellfish issues, were now operating under different sets of rules.

With the adoption of the amended ordinance in Stonington, the two ordinances are now the same.

While many of the amendments to the ordinance were required by the state and were mainly “housekeeping” changes, there were three substantial changes that came from the joint shellfish committee, according to George Powell, the chairman of the joint shellfish committee.

Those changes, he said, included a strengthening of enforcement, changing the issuing date for licenses and establishing a lottery system for non-resident commercial licenses.

It was the lottery provision that caused some confusion among clam diggers and, according to town officials, was one of the reasons for the initial defeat in Stonington. The amendment, however, states that the town clerks will issue licenses and “hold a lottery for nonresident commercial licenses…”

The amended ordinance also sets May 1 each year as the date for town clerks to begin issuing licenses, which will not become valid until June 1.

Powell also explained that the section on fees had changed, removing the fee schedule from the ordinance. He said the committee is required to send a fee structure to the state each year. By removing the fee schedule from the ordinance, he said, “it allows us to make changes if we want to without changing the ordinance.”