Scarborough rejects plan to limit shellfish licenses

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SCARBOROUGH — For the second year in a row, councilors rejected a plan from the town’s Shellfish Committee that would have reduced the number of recreational shellfish licenses sold by the town. 

“I think this was likely changed for the wrong reasons,” said Council Chairman Ron Ahlquist. 

The committee had proposed the number of residential recreational licences be reduced from 200 to 180 and the number of non-residential recreational licenses be reduced from 20 to 18. 

Licenses are sold to residents on a first-come, first-serve basis from the second week of April through August 1. After that, non-residents can buy up whatever licenses remain. 

David Corbeau, the town’s marine resource management officer and staff liaison to the committee, said that most of the time there are licenses left over by August, and that those licenses are nearly always purchased by non-residents within a week of going up for sale. 

He said the effort to reduce permits was small-scale protectionism, or residents not wanting Scarborough’s shellfish being caught by out-of-towners. He spoke out against the change on Wednesday.

“I don’t like doing away with 20 (residential) recreational licenses,” he said. “A couple of committee members don’t like them going to non-residents. I don’t mind that. And I’d hate to see residents of Scarborough get shut out from buying one in July because we don’t offer them.”

Councilor Jessica Holbrook asked whether the decrease proposed was also an effort to balance out the increase in commercial licenses also proposed by the committee – one more permit for a commercial digger over 60 years old and two more for residential commercial diggers. 

Robert Willette, who chairs the Shellfish Committee, said it did not, and that increased mud coverage from rainfall this year should balance out the number of shellfish available and provide for the extra licenses.

“As far as the decrease in recreational, that was done because they weren’t all being sold to the residents of Scarborough,” Willette said. “I voted to oppose it.”

Councilors agreed with Willette and Corbeau. Councilor Judy Roy amended the proposal to maintain the 2011 numbers for recreation permits while accepting the minor increases in commercial ones.  The amended bill was passed unanimously by the council.

In other business Wednesday, councilors unanimously agreed to extend the term of the Town Center Municipal Development TIF District for another three years.

TIF, or Tax Increment Finance, districts are a financial tool that allow municipalities to earmark tax revenue increases to pay for certain area for development projects.

The Town Center TIF District was enacted in 1985 to fund construction of the Municipal Offices, the addition of the police station to the fire station on Route 1, and renovation of the Scarborough Public Library through TIF revenue generated in Oak Hill.

The town still needs to pull in more than $600,000 from the TIF to break even on those expenditures, Hall said.

“I would like to see us benefit as much as we could from it,” Roy said.

The proposed extension will head to the state Community Development Committee for review. If it is approved there, the TIF district will expire in 2016 – giving it the maximum allowed lifespan of 30 years.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.