'A water parking lot' in Yarmouth: Plan proposes enhanced, money-making harbor

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council at a workshop last week heard recommendations for development of the town’s waterfront property, including nearly doubling the number of moorings in Yarmouth Harbor.

Representatives from Baker Design Consultants presented highlights from a plan designed to increase the harbor’s accessibility and overall economic viability.

“The underlying goal as we put this together is to try and create a sustainable waterfront,” senior engineer Barney Baker said.

The 52-page Yarmouth Town Landing Master Plan recommends a variety of projects to enhance the Town Landing, an 8.6-acre tract of town-owned land on the east side of the harbor with 1,500 feet of shoreline.

The plan’s preliminary cost estimates total nearly $1.24 million. It calls for an increase in the number of harbor moorings from roughly 60 to 114, with the hope of boosting town revenue through annual docking fees and encouraging the patronage of transient boaters from nearby communities, who would pay premium rates to dock. The town now has a waiting list for annual moorings.

“After the dredge takes place (this fall), you could see the capacity for this being a water parking lot,” Councilor James MacLeod said. “And I would agree, the transient traffic, long term, coming in and parking overnight, (dining at) restaurants, walking into the village and having this be a destination place for these overnight boaters … long term, I think that’s where it’s at.”

The plan also recommends increased parking and boat ramp access, public restrooms, a new harbormaster’s building, improvements to a nearby scenic trail, the paving and widening of Old Shipyard Road, and increased (though “limited”) commercial development of the landing.

In order to fund the plan, which would most likely be completed in stages, Baker suggested putting aside capital funding that could be used for matching grants. The grants that become available could dictate the order in which the projects are tackled. He also pointed to the expanded mooring, calling it “a real source of revenue” that would “feed a lot of the potential for expansion.”

The study was paid for with a Shore and Harbor Planning Grant administered by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and the town. It builds on the findings of a 2009 study of the Royal River corridor and a 2012 study that looked for ways to better connect the waterfront to the village.

In preparing the master plan, Baker Design Consultants and Yarmouth Planning Director Vanessa Farr held three meetings with stakeholders, including the Royal River Conservation Trust, Maine Rivers, the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, marina business owners, private property owners and town staff.

With no funding in place, there’s no telling if or when any of these projects will commence. But the council responded favorably to the report and could vote to formally endorse the Town Landing Master Plan at its April 17 meeting.

“This is exactly the type of forward vision that we should be doing as opposed to just being reactive to different situations and different zoning issues,” Council Chairman Steve Woods said.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@brendantwist.