SOUTH PORTLAND – From her home, Kim Myers has a good view of two shrink-wrapped boats. There’s one across the street next to an apartment building, and another behind her house that belongs to a neighbor.

To Myers, boats parked in yards and driveways are just a normal part of the winter scene.

“It seems like South Portland has always been a working waterfront. That’s part of that,” Myers said.

But off-season boat storage in residential areas recently created a stir in the city. It raised questions about when the rights of owners to use their property might infringe on their neighbors’ ability to enjoy theirs.

A proposed ordinance would have created setback restrictions in residential areas — 6 feet from side and rear property lines and 20 feet from the front — for boats at least 24 feet long.

But a City Council workshop on the proposal drew a crowd of boaters opposed to the idea, and the council declined to take it any further.

“Basically, the council was not interested in pursuing that at all,” said Mayor Rosemarie De Angelis. “They listened to a roomful of people who said, ‘We’re a working-class coastal community.’ And we are.”

South Portland isn’t the first community to deal with the issue. Biddeford and Falmouth both have setback rules governing boat storage in residential areas. Officials in Quincy, Mass., rejected setback restrictions last month.

Diana Fournier, owner of the 32-foot Sea Ray across the street from Myers, was upset when she learned about the proposal. For the past few years, she and her husband have stored their boat by the apartment building they own on Grand Street because that property is closer to the marina than their home is.

“I can’t afford to keep my boat in a boat yard. It would cost me $1,300,” said Fournier, an insurance agent. “We used to, but times are tough.”

Theresa Roberts, who lives down the street, has no problems with Fournier’s boat.

“I like the water and I appreciate that other people enjoy it,” she said.

Fern Boudreau, however, says stored boats are eyesores that undermine efforts to keep neighborhoods attractive. There are boats on both sides of the entrance to her condominium complex off Sawyer Road.

“I mentioned it once to the neighbor,” said Boudreau, adding that residential boat storage wasn’t allowed where she lived in Florida. “I said he had such a nice property. Too bad to ruin it.”

Winter storage costs at boat yards depend on a number of factors, including the type of boat, whether it is on a trailer and whether there’s a mast, said Daniel Lilley II of Sunset Marina. Prices for the season typically run from $20 to $60 per foot, he said.

Eric Small’s concerns about boats across the street from his Snowberry Drive home, and his subsequent investigation into whether the practice was regulated, were what led to the City Council workshop Monday.

Small — who described himself as “probably on the compulsive side of things” — said he got worried about his property value when he saw three boats at his neighbors’ home. One has since been relocated.

Small said some good things came out of the workshop. The City Council directed staff to track complaints about neighborhood boat storage — the city has received a small number in the past.

Small says this will provide an avenue for residents who have concerns.

He said he also had a good conversation with his neighbor after the workshop. He said their relationship had rough spots before, and that his sharp reaction to the arrival of two of the boats made communication more difficult.

“At the end of the day, it was a learning experience for me,” he said.

Gary Crosby of Tanner Street said the city would have been overreaching had it imposed setback rules. Boat storage, he said, doesn’t constitute a nuisance or danger to the neighborhood.

“Make the streets safe, run the schools and stay out of our lives,” said Crosby, who keeps his 21-foot power boat under a Quonset hut in his side yard.

John Harmon of Checkerberry Circle said the restrictions would have hurt his business at a time of rising fuel prices and other economic difficulties. Harmon uses his 32-foot lobster boat for commercial tuna fishing and charters. He keeps it by his garage in the winter to save $2,300 and because it is a convenient place to do maintenance work.

“I strictly made sure when I purchased in this neighborhood that there were no covenants against it,” he said.

Buzz Sanborn’s Sea Ray is on stanchions by the side of his house, where its visible to his neighbors.

“I live in South Portland. They all can see it. I can see their recreational vehicles and the firewood they have outside and the tarps they have outside on their personal items,” Sanborn said. “I think we all need to learn to live together and respect each other. And, generally, I think we do.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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