Zoning Priority at 2nd Working Waterfront Group Meeting

John Bisnette, 68, Lobsters Full-Time on Portland Waterfront Attended the Meeting Last Night. at City Hall.

“We are starting to get into the nuts and bolts,” said Keith Lane, 72, last night following the second meeting of the “Working Waterfront Group” in which waterfront zoning was the priority on the agenda. Lane is one of the three representatives of the Lobster Lobby to the Working Waterfront Group, (“WWG”) organized by city manager Jon Jennings.

The series of meetings during a moratorium called by Jennings is charged with resolving the growing conflict between the Lobster Lobby, wharf owners and other stakeholders on the waterfront. The meetings were intended to stop the citizens initiative that would have placed an amendment on the May 2019 ballot that would have rolled back zoning to reflect more strict regulations put in place in 1987 by Portland voters. However, the Lobster Lobby has recently announced it will call off the effort. That was because David Bateman, who had proposed to build a hotel on a wharf on the waterfront, withdrew that portion of the application.

But, if the city does not meet its commitments to the Lobster Lobby, it is holding another, updated amended ordinance in abeyance if needed. The amended ordinance would restrict waterfront uses reflective of the restrictive ordinance passed by Portland voters back in 1987 – an idea that some pier owners are frankly wary of. Will the Lobster Lobby get what it wants from the city?

In the midst of a free- flowing 2 l/2 hour conversation among the Group, the “nuts and bolts” were introduced when Keith Lane said he wanted to get rid of the Non-marine Use Overlay Zone, (“NMUOZ”), “It’s an area on the waterfront where you can do anything you want. I want this zone to go away,” he said. “There’s a 50-50 chance it will go away.”

The conversation by the Waterfront Working Group, a/k/a WWG, followed a comprehensive presentation by city staff of the zoning on the waterfront. Presenting were Jeff Levine, Bill Needleman, Waterfront Liaison to the city’s Economic Development Office, at city hall, and Matt Grooms, city planner.

“Once you’ve developed an area, it’s lost forever. If a hotel came in down there the area would be lost to fishing forever, ” said John Bisnette, a lobsterman. “They are trying to make it so Willis’ sons will have a place to fish. The way things were going that wasn’t going to happen. We are dealing with cycles that are more than a lifetime.” Bisnette, 68, said he lobsters every day of the week – full-time. “This will be my last year,” he said. (See above photo of Bisnette).

About 40 people attended the public meeting, although no public comment was heard.

Jennings said he will have a draft statement reflecting this discussion for the next meeting in two weeks.

Please see posts herein dated January 14, 2019 and January 11, 2019 for more background information.