Compromise Key to Success of Working Waterfront Group Meetings

Representing the Fishing Industry Are: Keith Lane, Willis Spear and Bill Coopersmith Following Today’s Last Meeting at City Hall.

“It’s historic. It’s amazing. We are blown away,” said Willis Spear late this afternoon following the last of nine meetings of the Working Waterfront Group organized and facilitated by city manager Jon Jennings and Bill Needleman, waterfront coordinator. The coalition has been meeting regularly to come up with a compromise that would alleviate the well-publicized issues confronting the fishing industry over the past few years. Development along Commercial Street, the resulting traffic and lack of parking were some of the issues that precipitated the discussions between lobstermen and waterfront wharf owners. .”It’s been a real steep learning curve about zoning,” said Spear shaking his head in disbelief. “But we’ve had good assistance from our attorneys.”

Members of the Working Waterfront Group Listen to a Presentation by Matt Grooms, Planning Department, at Today’s Meeting.

As was intended, deliberations were finished in time for the proposed changes to be placed on a planning board workshop agenda on Tuesday, April 23, at 4:30 pm, city hall. At that time, amendments based on the recommendations from the Working Waterfront Group will be addressed. Recently, the frequency of the meetings were excelerated to meet deadlines set. With a deadline of June 15 for the waterfront moratorium ending on development looming and an expected vote by the city council set for early June, there was no time to waste in deliberations.

For Spear, the turning point was the acceptance of the use of TIF funds for dredging Portland Harbor. Hence, the wharf owners won’t have to go to the state to get it done. At that meeting, we almost came to blows, he said. The Group also came to an agreement on the overlay district – a source of real contention between the lobsterman and the wharf owners, It had to do with the depth and width of the overlay district that discourages big developments. That recalls the plans of a local developer to build a hotel on the Commercial Street waterfront that has since been withdrawn.

Steve DiMillo, DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant & Marina said following the meeting that both sides compromised. Wharf owners have some flexibility to develop properties and keep water dependent uses the highest priority. “It was a lot of little things that came together to make this work. Not just the TIF support,” he said.

There were no handshakes, but did overhear talk about having a beer!

“The city has worked with us and guided us through this process,” said Spear. “We are grateful to the city.”

Please view previous posts herein including one dated January 3, 2019.