"There's nothing wrong with having commercial (vessels), but it's got to be defined," said John T. Pinto, the committee's acting chairman. "As the Harbor Management Commission, we're interested in the definition of 'commercial,' because we can't have a vessel that's 80-feet long."
Dennis Santella, also on the committee, said he had concerns about the structural integrity of the floating docks, given their age, for larger vessels.
"I make a motion to table this until we get further information," Santella said.
Residents Diane Cece and Diane Lauricella, as well as councilwomen Joanne T. Romano and Michelle A. Maggio, welcomed the committee's decision to table action on the request.
"I'm going to ask this be put on the agenda of our next Recreation and Parks Committee meeting for a discussion item," Maggio said.
At issue is a request by the city's Department of Recreation and Parks seeking "Change of Use" approval to allow commercial vessels at the city docks, also known as the David S. Dunavan Boating Center.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would have the final say on the request to "accept unrestricted use by municipal, commercial, and recreational vessels."
The current Army Corps permit allows only transient and recreational vessels.
In practice, the harbormaster's boat and municipal vessels already use the docks.
Tony D'Andrea, Harbor Management Commission chairman, said the requested change would be a "benefit considering the new fire boat coming into town."
"I'm a big proponent of public safety," D'Andrea said. "But we need to understand the size of the vessels that are going to be allowed to (dock) there."
Harbor Management commissioners will discuss the matter tonight but take no action, according to Pinto.
The requested "Change of Use" comes as the city and the owner of the Island Belle, a 600-passenger Mississippi paddleboat, work to keep the commercial vessel in Norwalk.
In May, the Army Corps notified Mayor Richard A. Moccia that the Island Belle wasn't allowed at the city docks. Further, the vessel was so positioned as to encroach into the federal navigation channel.
Ken Hart, Island Belle owner, said the vessel since has been moved from the navigation channel. He expressed hope that the issues will be resolved and the Island Belle can remain in Norwalk Harbor.
"We're in talks with other locations in the event that things aren't able to work out in the city," Hart said. But "Norwalk is the place we'd love to be."
Robert F. Maslan, Jr., head of the city's law department, said the "Change of Use" request is not related to the Island Belle but rather to allow existing use of the docks by the harbormaster's boat, as well as city police and fire boats.
"If the Island Belle comes in at all, it's going to be a totally separate application," Maslan said. "This is not directly related to the Island Belle."