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PORTLAND — A portion of a deeded right of way on Portland Pier may soon be eliminated.
While councilors have yet to vote on discontinuing a right of way down the center of the pier toward the water’s edge, the move is seen by city officials as a way to help repair the pier and boost the marine industry.
The City Council Economic Development Committee, led by Councilor Justin Costa, unanimously recommended the right of way be discontinued at a June 19 meeting. Councilors took public comment Aug. 13, but will not take action until at least Sept. 5, when they meet again.
Portland Pier sits between Long Wharf and Custom House Pier, and is home to J’s Oyster Bar, two law offices and condominiums at 50 Portland Pier. Mitchell noted the eastern and southern portions of the pier are used by lobstermen, while much of the western side is leased to Dimillio’ s yacht brokerage.
Commercial fishermen and pedestrians will still retain public access rights after the right of way is discontinued, according to an Aug. 3 memo to the council from city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell.
Mitchell said discontinuing the right of way affects the 60 Portland Pier property, where owners Portland Pier Holdings are repairing the privately held portions. The owners have committed to repairing the right of way if it is discontinued.
“Without repair, access to the pier will need to be restricted for safety. There is currently no city budget identified for repair,” Mitchell said.
The right of way extending from 50 Portland Pier back to Commercial Street will be preserved.
The Aug. 13 council hearing brought comment only from Portland Trails Executive Director Kara Wooldrik, who said the pier is part of a trail network along the waterfront. She asked for more visible signs noting trail access, but did not object to discontinuing the right of way.
In a June 13 memo to the committee, Waterfront Director Bill Needelman said Portland Pier is unusual in that it has a public right of way while adjacent piers are privately owned.
At the June 19 committee meeting, Christopher Stevenson of Portland Pier Holdings said the owners have already begun repairs, including replacing planking, and will also install new floats for lobster boat moorings at the end of the pier. There are also plans for a new seafood restaurant at the end of the pier.
Intended future uses are consistent with the waterfront zoning Mitchell said, and discontinuing the right of way is necessary for the redevelopment.
“Only with immediate and continued investment will public and fishing access be retained on the subject portion of right of way,” he said.
The right of way to the very end of the pier was sold by the city in 2014 to McAlleny’s New Meadow’s Lobster, Mitchell said, although public access continued to be guaranteed as a condition of the sale.
Portland Pier Holdings subsequently bought the end of the pier.
Portland city councilors will soon vote on discontinuing the marked right of way on Portland Pier.Owners of the southerly end of Portland Pier are renovating and repairing the pier and buildings and plan to reopen marine-related businesses.