AG’s decision on personal watercraft delayed

The Attorney General’s Office now has a 30-day extension to continue to review the proposed bylaw from the Town of Southwick. (WNG File Photo)

SOUTHWICK – The Town of Southwick is awaiting the decision from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office on the town’s adopted and amended Chapter 75 bylaw, which would prohibit personal watercraft from being on the North Pond section of Congamond Lake.

At the May 16 Southwick annual town meeting, residents voted on a warrant article that would ask the town to accept a bylaw that would allow personal watercraft on North Pond. After the floor was open to discussion, Southwick residents Ken Plumlee and Paul Murphy made a motion to amend the Chapter 75 bylaw in order to prohibit the use of jet skis on North Pond. The amendment passed unanimously by the voting residents not allowing jet skis on North Pond.

The amended bylaw stated that personal watercraft users could still use North Pond at six miles per hour in order to get to another section of the lake system that is open to personal watercraft. Six miles per hour on North Pond is considered the maximum speed that someone can safely control their vehicle in that particular area. Any unsafe or reckless actions on a jet ski or other watercraft will result in a citation from the Southwick Police.

On June 1, Southwick Town Clerk Michelle Hill sent the amended bylaw to the Attorney General’s Office. Once they received it, they had 60 days to either approve or disapprove the bylaw.

Despite that, the Attorney General’s Office informed Southwick Town Counsel Ben Coyle that they would be requesting a 30-day extension. 

“We’re not anticipating the Attorney General’s review to be complete until the end of September now,” said Southwick Chief Administrator Officer Karl Stinehart.

If it does happen to be approved by the Attorney General’s Office, the town will have 90 days to post the bylaw. Any potential changes or additions to the bylaw can’t go into effect until after the 90-day period.

This issue stems from when former Southwick Police Chief David Ricardi issued a statement on May 18, 2017 that personal watercraft would not be allowed on North Pond.

When receiving clarification from the Environmental Police, Ricardi was informed that a specific part of a lake has to be a minimum of 75 acres to allow jet skis on that body of water. Even though North Pond is 50 acres, since Congamond Lake was determined as a “great pond” consisting of three basins connected by channels, jet skis would be allowed on North Pond. The confusion to the actual ruling came about when the Lake Management Committee was told by Mass DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) that you have to treat each of the three bodies of water on the lake separately.

In August of 2017, Select Board member Doug Moglin proposed to form a town bylaw. Since then, there had been numerous informational sessions about the bylaw and input from town officials and residents.

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