ROCKPORT — Rockport’s Select Board approved new and higher harbor fees and also moved toward what could be the first-ever town policy on whether commercial vendors can operate in park and harbor space.

The commercial vendor question has languished since last summer, when the Select Board approved a temporary mobile sauna operation at Rockport Marine Park. That caused a backlash from the Parks and Beautification Committee, which soon after voted to oppose all commercial uses in town parks. And that move in turn put the Parks folks at odds with the harbor committee, which looked favorably on the sauna and already had a food truck operating on harbor land.

Although the Select Board has asked twice since approving the sauna that the two committees convene a joint meeting and come up with a possible policy recommendation, that still has not happened.

It was during a review of the harbor committee’s 2023 work plan that the issue came up again. Committee chair Sam Temple made it clear where his group stands.

“The harbor committee’s recommendation is to have a food truck,” Temple said. “The parks committee said no commercial uses in the Rockport Marine Park…OK, now I think we have a bridge to cross with them,” he said, adding he believe the entire issue came up as a result of the sauna approval.

In the end, and at the suggestion of Town Manager Jon Duke, the board essentially directed the two committees to meet and come up with some recommendations from which Duke and the board might be able to craft a new policy about commercial uses of the parks and harbor.

Select Board member Eric Boucher, attending online, indicated the committees were already looking at a January meeting.

In addition to directing the harbor committee to add to its new work plan a meeting with the parks folks, the board also asked for a complete review of harbor rules.

As for the new harbor fees, hikes effective Jan. 1 will range from about 10% for non-resident moorings to 150% to get on the waiting list to moor a boat. And for the first time, dinghy owners will be charged $100 if they miss the official haul-out date and harbor staff has to remove the boat. The same fee will apply if the staff must continually bail out a dinghy to keep it afloat.

The new fees and increases in existing rates all were recommended by veteran harbormaster Abbie Leonard. Some fees are hiked annually, but the last big hikes came two years ago when rates went up 25 to 30 percent, Leonard told the Select Board at its Dec. 12 meeting.

A comparison with neighboring and similar harbors showed that Rockport is “a little more expensive than pretty much most and a little cheaper than a couple,” Leonard reported, adding, “But I think that is where we should be.” Other towns also charge more for non-residents, she said.

The 150% hike for a spot on the waiting list for a mooring, up from $10 to $25, was designed to “weed out” less serious people, Leonard explained in her memo recommending the fee hikes.

Launching, or ramp, fees for what Leonard called “arguably one of the best boat launches in the state,” will also go up for recreational resident and nonresident boaters. They will range from $10 to $100. It marks the first such hike in 20 years, according to Leonard. Those hikes will not apply to commercial boat haulers whose fees have gone up “substantially” in the past three years, Leonard’s memo states.

Winter boat storage fees also will go up from $2 per square foot to $2.50 per square foot, under the newly approved rules.

Leonard also is exploring a high-tech way to make payment easier and fee collection more efficient. “I am going to be looking into a way for boaters to be able to pay from their phones with a credit card right at the ramp,” she said.