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Proposed waterfront zoning changes go to Portland council

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Proposed waterfront zoning changes go to Portland council

PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday is expected to begin deliberating a proposal from wharf owners to relax waterfront zoning.

The council will get an overview of the proposed new zoning, which has been making its way through the Planning Department and Planning Board since wharf owners in December 2008 submitted a letter requesting "zoning relief" in the waterfront area referred to as the central zone.

The letter writers said relaxed zoning would allow them to generate more revenue, and in turn have money to make costly repairs to their wharves and piers. Twelve commercial waterfront property owners signed the letter, and leaders of that group crafted proposed zoning with the help of Planning Department staff.

On July 13, the Planning Board recommended to the City Council that zoning for the Waterfront Central Zone be amended. The amendments include: allowing up to 50 percent non-marine uses to occupy the first floor of buildings, relaxing non-marine development restrictions along Commercial Street on the water side, and allowing more non-commercial berthing along piers.

The council's Community Development Committee met July 14 to discuss the Planning Board recommendations and decided it wanted to review the proposal "line by line" before forwarding it to the full council for a vote.

City Councilor John Anton, who serves on the CDC, said the committee at its Aug. 11 meeting will also discuss two outstanding issues: public access and "linkage," or figuring out how to ensure that revenue generated from non-marine business and development ends up paying for pier and wharf maintenance.

The CDC decided it had no interest in pursuing a discussion about allowing residential use in the zone.

On July 16, the city received a letter signed by more than 70 commercial vessel owners opposing the proposal to allow more recreational boat berthing on the "working waterfront." The letter said there is already a shortage of commercial berthing space and "sharing" of existing berthing is a very real threat."

Although not included in the back-up material for the council meeting, councilors are expected to discuss the concerns from the fishermen.

The full council meets Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers for a workshop on the proposed zone changes.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net