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Lake Norman panel objects to House bill giving towns power on the water

The Lake Norman Marine Commission is fighting a House bill that would give first-time powers for Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Mooresville and Troutman to enforce their ordinances 2,500 feet from shore.

The commission says rules on the water should govern the entire lake, not one town to the next. That will only create confusion and contradicts state law that gives the commission the authority to enact on-the-water measures, members say.

The five-member panel consists of residents appointed by the Mecklenburg, Iredell, Lincoln and Catawba county boards of commissioners. Those counties comprise the lake.

In an April 23 letter to the committee studying House Bill 186, marine commission Chairman Rich Permenter of Denver, N.C., calls the bill “unnecessary” and “unsound public policy that will create more problems than it will solve.”

The marine commission has called a special meeting for 3 p.m. Thursday at Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave., to discuss the bill.

State Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Cornelius, said he is leading the push for legislation. Tarte, the town’s former mayor, said that for five years, Cornelius has tried to get Mecklenburg County to address late-night noise problems on the water and the theft of life vests and other equipment from boats moored on the water at the Bluestone Harbor community, “and they didn’t.”

Tarte said provisions have been added to the bill preventing the towns from having authority over boater-safety rules and rules established by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Rich’s concerns are completely unfounded,” Tarte said.

The bill doesn’t target boaters in the middle of a weekend afternoon, he said, only noise from late-night partiers disrupting nearby homeowners.

State Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Huntersville, is the bill’s primary sponsor in the House. He said only town noise ordinances could be enforced under the bill. A provision also bars towns from making rules affecting hunting and fishing, he said.

“It is in the communities’ best interest to be able to enforce noise ordinances off their coastline in the same manner that coastal towns enforce their noise ordinances on the ocean and sounds,” Jeter said.

The authority to deal with noise on the water in Mecklenburg County now rests with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

Other agencies, including Cornelius police, can enforce criminal law within a mile of their limits. But local ordinances, such as the town’s noise ordinance, are restricted to the corporate limits, which don’t include the water.

CMPD isn’t on the water enough to deal with noise and other complaints consistently, Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle has told the Observer. “These occur at all hours, not just when they are out part time.”

Permenter said the commission’s opposition “is based on the fact that this bill is clearly contrary to the legislative intent of the statute that established the Marine Commission and establishes a dangerous precedent inevitably leading to the conflicting partitioning (zoning) of the waters of Lake Norman.”

The commission, he wrote, is addressing noise concerns and has done so in the past. Working with Cornelius and Mecklenburg and other counties, he said, the commission enacted a lakewide rafting ordinance to address nuisance concerns involving the practice of large numbers of boats tying up together to party on the lake.

He also cited the commission’s no-wake buoy ordinance to correct major wake issues at a specific marina as well as around the lake, and its charter/excursion boat ordinance to address concerns of vessel size and passenger safety in response to a request for a large vessel to berth at a marina on the lake.

Marusak: 704-987-3670 Twitter: @jmarusak
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