City Councilors approved the first reading of an amendment to allow Front Street Shipyard to make improvements to its marine facilities, which has already received support from the harbor committee and planning board.

Front Street Shipyard submitted an application to the city requesting an amendment to its contract rezoning agreement, which would allow the company to increase the size of its travel-lift pier to accommodate a larger lift, adjust the size of its turning basin and construct a larger wash basin.

President J.B. Turner explained the travel lift pier would increase in size from 31-feet wide to 38-feet wide in order to accommodate larger vessels. He also explained the existing wash basin would be widened.

When the Harbor Committee began reviewing the proposed marine improvements, City Planner Wayne Marshall said the most significant concern was the impact of the larger turning basin on existing moored float owners.

Marshall said members of the committee wanted to ensure the owners, specifically T.J. Faulkingham and Wayne Canning who own moored floats near the turning basin, would be relocated to a comparable area of the inner harbor.

“I think the consensus was that we have a path to make this work for all,” Marshall said. “I do think we can ensure the fishermen are treated well and not being subjected to being moved to the other harbor.”

Marshall then explained the planning board’s concerns primarily related to the potential parking and landscaping issues related to the construction of a sixth building. Marshall said the application to construct an addition on the building is still “about a month” out, and the only other request from the planning board was to ensure the Harbor Walk would not be impacted by the widened wash basin.

As proposed, the Harbor Walk crosses over Front Street Shipyard’s washbasin, which Marshall said the city can address by diverting people around the area when large ships are being hauled, or by having a shipyard employee guide people through the area.

City Councilor Mike Hurley said there have been concerns about a boat falling or otherwise striking someone while its being hauled, but he noted many people walk along portions of the harbor where there is heavy vehicle traffic and those vehicles are traveling faster than a boat being hauled.

“These boats are moving very slowly,” Hurley said. “I think it will be one of those things that will just work out.”

Turner said the company would take steps to make sure the travel-lift pier is clearly marked following an accident that occurred at a shipyard in Newport, R.I. According to publish reports, three women were driving through the Rhode Island marina when they turned right and mistakenly drove off of the pier thinking it was a road extension. All three women died as a result of the accident.

Councilors voted 4 to 0 with Councilor Roger Lee absent to approve the amendment as a first reading. A final vote will be taken after a public hearing is held during the next council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5.

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