Waterfront Panel Addresses Wide Range of Subjects; Second Forum Tonight – 3/3

By Carol McCracken (Post # 404)

The future of tourism, the fishing industry, the sustainability of wharves and the introduction of marine researach to the area were the focus of a sprawling presentation last night intended to assist the city’s planning board in deciding whether or not to make text amendments to the comprehensive plan for the Portland waterfront. The planning board hosted the event at the Merrill Auditorium Rehersal Hall on Myrtle Street which was well attended.

A review of the comprehensive plan was necessitated by the petitioning begun last October by three representatives of a coalition of eleven wharf owners to relax the city’s zoning ordinance to give them more leeway in renting policies in the waterfront central zone. (WCZ) The three representatives are Steve DiMillo, Charlie Poole and Dick Ingalls. The so-called text amendment has already been written by the city’s staff and was paid for by the wharf owners.

Burt Jogerden, general manager of the Portland Fish Exchange, said the future for the fishing industry is “bleak” here. The groundfishermen are going to Massachusetts where the financial incentives are better. It’s certain that the introduction of new fishing regulations by the government this spring will further deplete the number of fishermen in Portland – possibly by half. However, the lobster industry is very strong here. For the 2009 season, there was a record catch.

Charlie Poole whose family owns Union Wharf served on the panel as well – representing the interests of the 11 wharf owners. He said that the impression some may have garnered that wharf owners want to be able to rent to “recreational” boats is not accurate. So-called “yachts” would suffer far too much damage off his wharf were they to berth there.

Barbara Whitten, executive director of the Greater Portland Convention and Visitor Bureau said that public accessibility to the waterfront is vital to attract tourists. She cited DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant as a model for attracting tourists; access to the waterfront in a very pleasant setting. At the conclusion of the two hour forum, Dick Ingalls, reminded the planning board that the coalition was requesting only five specific changes. Chair Bill Hall responded that he understood, but it was necessary to go through this lengthy process. The three representatives have repeatedly expressed frustration at the slowness of the process since last fall.

Sam Davidson, owner of the Marine Trade Center said following the forum: “It’s hard to overlay a single policy on a waterfront that has different and diverse needs. As a member of the waterfront, I’m not looking for substantial changes – changes that will change the character and nature of the waterfront.”

The second forum will be held tonight at the Merrill Auditorium Rehearsal Hall from 7 pm – 9 pm.

Please visit post # 401, dated February 21, for more background information on the subject.