Friday, May 6, 2011

Portland: State approves weakened working waterfront protections

Earlier this year, I reported on how city officials in Maine's largest city, had weakened working waterfront protections at the behest of pier owners. Presented with the option of excluding the pier ends themselves from zoning changes -- but opening up the valuable lots along Commercial Street to a wide range of developments -- the majority of Portland city councilors decided there was no need for caution.

State officials from the outgoing administration of Gov. John Baldacci warned they would likely not approve the changes, but most observers expected that under Gov. Paul LePage, developers would likely trump fishermen when the zoning changes were reviewed. And, indeed, this is precisely what happened, as announced today by City of Portland spokesperson Nicole Clegg:

City of Portland
389 Congress Street
Portland, Maine 04101
www.portlandmaine.gov
CONTACT: Nicole Clegg, 207-756-8173, 207-272-4477 (cell)
nicoleclegg@portlandmaine.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2011

Maine DEP Approves Changes to Waterfront Central Zone

PORTLAND, Maine – Today, the City of Portland was notified by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that the city’s request for zoning amendments under the Shoreland Zoning Program has been approved. The Waterfront Central Zone amendments expand opportunity for development while continuing to protect working waterfront uses and infrastructure.

“Today’s announcement marks the end of the successful planning process and the beginning of new opportunity for the city’s waterfront,” stated City of Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones. “We appreciate the time the Maine Department of Environmental Protection took to both provide input during the planning process as well as review and grant approval to our amendment request.”

“For more than 20 years, Portland has strived to strike the right balance between protecting the character defining maritime uses that we love with other development that increasingly characterize the city’s new economy. We sought equilibrium by creating a mixed-use waterfront that supports our marine-based industries and as a result have created a dynamic waterfront that values the many industries for which our piers are their lifelines. It goes without saying that we are proud of the city’s waterfront and the local policies that support it.”

“The changes approved today are the direct result of the hard work and commitment of the stakeholders, city staff and the City Council to work collaboratively in developing policy that would present new development potential while protecting the city’s working waterfront. We took great pains to insure that the Waterfront Central Zone process involved everyone and while we may each have had our own oar, we all agreed to pull in the same direction. Because whether you are a fisherman or a restaurant that prepares the fish; a lobsterman or a tour guide taking a group of people on a boat to pull traps; a tugboat operator or a bus driver taking cruise ship passengers to tour the lighthouses, we are all connected and depend upon each other’s success to make our economy work. Just as Portland creatively navigated economic challenges of the twentieth century, today, we enact new policies that preserve our working waterfront and build our economy for the twenty-first century,” concluded Mavodones.

Portland’s Central Waterfront, located west of the Maine State Pier and east of the International Marine Terminal, is home to fifteen piers, dozens of marine and non-marine businesses, and is the center of the region’s fishing economy. The zoning amendments for Portland’s Central Waterfront were developed to protect traditional marine business while allowing other compatible uses for development.

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