Give the excavator operator some love. It was Valentine’s Day and the old Stinson cannery was coming down.

Workers from Jake Barbour Inc. Earthworks of Rockland began demolishing the derelict former sardine cannery building Feb. 14, giving the appearance of the end of a decade-long era of limbo for the Belfast waterfront property.

The 3.6-acre parcel was home to a succession of sardine companies for nearly a century until 2001 when the last owner, the Stinson Seafood Company, shuttered the old plant.

On Jan. 14 — after a decade punctuated by attempted redevelopments, grand proposals and long stretches of silence — a group of Midcoast marine industry executives, including Taylor Allen of Rockport Marine, Stephen White of Brooklin Boat Yard and Kenneth Priest and J.B. Turner of Kenway Corporation, bought the property and announced plans to open The Front Street Shipyard by summer.

As part of an agreement with the city, the new owners, doing business as DUBBA LLC (the acronym stands for Down Under Belfast Bridge Association), were initially obligated to remove the old cannery at the north end of the property by mid-March.

This deadline was extended to May 15 to allow the developers to build a retaining wall to contain the debris, which they anticipate will serve as a substrate for future building.

The buyers have yet to say what will happen with the other three buildings on the property or what may be built on the site of the former cannery. These plans are reportedly still in development.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the Belfast City Council approved a first reading of a contract rezoning agreement for the property that would allow the developers to, as the agreement reads: “… make critical improvements so their business can be operational by June 2011.”

These include, the construction of a pier to support a 150-ton travel lift, installing floats on either side of the pier, establishing a location for a temporary fisherman’s dock, constructing initial facilities including a marine wash basin, and “establishing the property as a boat repair, building, refitting and storage operation,” which may include the use of existing buildings.

The agreement, as approved by the Council on Tuesday, included recommendations from the city’s Harbor Committee and Planning Board and a provision that allows City Planner Wayne Marshall to make minor changes based on recommendations from the city attorney. A second reading has been scheduled for March 1.

Marshall noted that the contract rezoning agreement will be subject to further review when the developers present more of their plans for the property, including modifications to existing buildings and other new construction.