Planning Board OKs Front Street Shipyard marine improvements

By Ben Holbrook | Jan 30, 2013

Belfast — The Planning Board gave its conditional approval for the expansion of Front Street Shipyard’s travel lift and other marine improvements during a public hearing, Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Front Street Shipyard submitted a proposal to the city to allow the company to add a third support to its travel lift pier in order to accommodate a 330-ton capacity lift. In addition to the travel lift improvements, Front Street requested to adjust the size and location of its turning basin to allow larger vessels to access the travel lift pier.

The proposal was previously reviewed by the Harbor Advisory Committee, which approved the plan with a few recommendations. The most significant recommendation was that the commercial fishermen displaced by the shipyard’s expansion be relocated to an area that is comparable to where they were located.

Members of the Planning Board were supportive of the marine improvements requested by Front Street Shipyard, with Chairwoman Diane Allmayer-Beck and Secretary Paul Hamilton noting that they are concerned about parking and landscaping shrubbery on the property.

Allmayer-Beck specifically asked whether City Planner Wayne Marshall felt Front Street Shipyard was still in compliance with the conditions requiring the company to provide adequate parking. Marshall said the company is “on the cusp” of exceeding the available parking, but he anticipated the issue would be addressed when Front Street Shipyard submits an application regarding the construction of a new building.

Front Street Shipyard President J.B. Turner noted that the proposed marine improvements do not require the company to hire additional employees. He said in order to hire more workers, an additional building would have to be constructed.

“This application isn’t going to change parking,” Turner said.

After addressing the board’s concerns about parking, Marshall walked members through the conditions of approval for the marine improvements. He explained that the conditions were generally accepted by the Harbor Committee, with discussion primarily focusing on displaced mooring owners.

Marshall said there is enough flexibility that the turning basin designation can be honored, while any displaced moorings could be relocated. Harbormaster Katherine Pickering said she held off on moving moorings in the inner harbor while Front Street Shipyard discussed purchasing Belfast Boatyard.

Now that she has a better idea of Front Street Shipyard’s expansion plans, she said, she can continue to make adjustments. She said she didn’t want to make adjustments prior to understanding the shipyard’s expansion plans in order to avoid moving a mooring and then having to move it again.

In addition to adjustments within the harbor, Marshall said, Front Street Shipyard would also expand its washbasin, which would become part of the Harbor Walk. Marshall explained that the washbasin is used for collecting contaminants that come off the bottoms of the boats.

The Harbor Walk travels over the washbasin, which Marshall said means that when the shipyard is hauling a boat, people will either be diverted along relief walkways or employees from the shipyard would guide people around the area.

Following Marshall’s walkthrough of the conditions of approval, board members unanimously approved them and recommended the City Council approve the project.

Front Street Shipyard’s proposal goes before the City Council Tuesday, Jan. 29, for final approval.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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