A request from Tisbury harbor master John Crocker to increase mooring permit fees three times over the coming five years led to a lively discussion among local boat owners Tuesday, including Mr. Crocker himself.

Tisbury’s mooring lease and private mooring permit fees lag other down-Island towns significantly, Mr. Crocker told selectmen during a public hearing.

According to a report he provided, Tisbury charges annual mooring permit fees of $98 for boats under 20 feet in length and $163 for vessels 20 to 30 feet in length.

The town currently permits 126 of the smaller boats and 327 of the larger ones, Mr. Crocker said.

By comparison, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs both charge a flat fee regardless of vessel length. Edgartown’s rate is $200 a year and Oak Bluffs charges $200 in Lagoon Pond and $325 for a harbor mooring.

Based on his estimate of costs, Tisbury permits are losing the town money, Mr. Crocker said.

After reviewing the harbor department’s costs for mooring and pier maintenance, dredging, inspections and safety monitoring, he said each mooring costs the town at least $200 a year.

“There’s a reason why [other towns] are at $200, because that’s what it takes,” Mr. Crocker said.

“Quite frankly, a couple of hundred dollars for a mooring permit is the least expensive thing I buy,” he said, listing annual costs in the thousands of dollars to have his 33-foot boat hauled, stored for the winter and put back in the water come spring.

“It costs money to have a boat,” the harbor master said.

About 250 people are on a waiting list for moorings, and the list continues to grow.

“If we only did it by supply and demand, our rates would go through the roof,” said selectman and board chairman Melinda Loberg.

But, she added, “Tisbury has tried very hard to make boating affordable.”

Several boat owners who attended the hearing opposed Mr. Crocker’s plan to raise rates 7.5 per cent for 2020, with additional 10 per cent increases coming in 2022 and 2024.

“That’s a 37.5 per cent increase over four years,” said Jeffrey Canha. “What do you know that goes up 40 per cent in four years?”

Lynne Fraker objected to some of Mr. Crocker’s financial premises, arguing that transient boaters use town piers more than locals do and that dredging the channel into Lake Tashmoo benefits lake property owners as well as mooring permit owners.

“I’m bothered that the permit fees have to go up when they’re not looking at any other sources,” Ms. Fraker said.

After closing the hearing, selectmen discussed the proposal and agreed to take Mr. Canha’s suggestion to proceed with this year’s 7.5 per cent increase, without adding the two subsequent 10 per cent hikes.

In a separate motion, they also voted to have the town’s recently-created natural resources committee review Mr. Crocker’s numbers to determine what future mooring rate increases would be appropriate.