City councilors gave preliminary approval to a request from Maine Maritime Products to offer takeout meals at their facility in the Belfast Business Park.

The company approached the city in October 2013 about running the takeout at their facility, but City Planner Wayne Marshall noted a restaurant is a prohibited use in the Business Park under the existing zoning ordinance.

However, when the request was brought before the planning board, the majority of the board gave their consent to an amendment that would allow MMP to serve takeout meals.

Speaking to the council Tuesday, Jan. 7, MMP President George Delaney explained the company would offer “a limited menu of takeout items.” He also pointed out that he didn't feel that adding a takeout window would have a dramatic impact on traffic in the area.

“We're constantly trying to find ways to evolve,” Delaney explained to councilors as to why MMP wants to offer takeout meals.

While Delaney said MMP has no interest in creating seating inside the building, he did suggest the possibility of having a few picnic tables outside for people to use.

As discussion continued, Marshall explained that one of the issues he and Code Enforcement Officer Tod Rosenberg had with MMP's proposal is that it would set a precedent and the city would have to extend the same provisions to other businesses in the park.

Marshall further explained that when the Business Park was established, the intent was that the area would be an industrial park that would support manufacturing operations and job creation. In addition, Marshall pointed out in a memo to councilors that the property lots in the Business Park are offered at a price below the market value of the land.

However, Marshall did acknowledge that the building MMP now occupies, which used to be the former Young's Shellfish, existed before the creation of the Business Park and the property once had direct access to Route 1 through the National Guard property. That entrance was eliminated after the property was incorporated into the Business Park and now the property can be accessed only via Airport Road.

In his memo and at the meeting, Marshall raised the question of whether the city, if it approved a zoning amendment for MMP, would allow Easterly Wines to open a 20-seat restaurant where it features wine tastings of the wines that the company sells and distributes wholesale, or Ducktrap River of Maine to open a 30-seat restaurant that features their smoked seafood products.

Speaking to Marshall's point about other businesses opening restaurants in the Business Park, Councilor Roger Lee said he didn't believe it would be a bad thing to see such development take place.

The council also discussed the issue of seating for the takeout with Delaney stating the business did not favor having any indoor seating and instead would prefer to have a few picnic tables outside.

Because MMP's property was not originally a part of the Business Park, Marshall suggested the city could address the zoning amendment by granting a specific exemption to MMP, or he could draft a more generic amendment that would apply to all of the businesses in the Business Park.

Councilors said they favored an amendment that would apply to all of the businesses and directed Marshall to draft the language, which will be brought before the council at a future meeting.