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Hancock endorses planned ‘Aquatopia’

HANCOCK — The Hancock City Council voted to give an endorsement to “Aquatopia” on the condition that their operation abides by the city’s insurance.

Aquatopia is a floating, seasonal waterfront attraction proposed by Melissa Goulette during the public comment section of the council’s September meeting. The floating structure would be anchored off of Hancock Beach and would be paid for, owned, and operated by Goulette who would lease land on the beach to sell tickets and manage admission.

“My business will handle everything to make this installation possible,” Goulette said at the September meeting. “What I would like from you is to be allowed to use a designated area of the beach.”

The council was interested in the idea but had concerns about the city’s potential legal responsibility in the event of an accident.

“Our insurance agent said that (the city) will be fine as long as (Goulette) has (Aquatopia) initially insured and lists us as the additional insured,” said City Clerk Mary Babcock.

Portage Paddle Sports, a local business that uses the Hancock Beach concessions stand has a similar insurance structure. City Attorney Kevin Mackey also said he did not believe that the city would be liable for accidents that took place on the water, as Aquatopia would be located several feet from shore to ensure adequate anchor depth. 

When contacted by the Council regarding the possibility of Aquatopia, the owners of Portage Paddle Sports said that they were not opposed to the idea, but had concerns about where on the beach Aquatopia would be leased the necessary land.

The Council voted to endorse Aquatopia on the condition that Aquatopia operates in accordance with the city’s insurance. The endorsement does not mean that Aquatopia will definitely happen but it does allow Goulette to pursue other permits that the business would require.

The discussion also involved the topic of leasing beach land to vendors. Portage Paddle Sports was allowed to use the concessions building for free because the building had been empty for a number of years.

“Giving away space might become problematic. In the future, other people might ask, ‘Why not me?’,” said council member Whitney Warstler. “… I’m not saying that we need to be making money from these people; I’m just saying that I feel that legally we should be treating everyone the same and I’m worried that there might be problems if we don’t appear to be doing that.”

The council agreed to continue to consider and research ways to reach an equitable agreement. One proposed possibility included beginning to charge Paddle Sports but waiting to charge Aquatopia until after their first year.

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