Letters, April 12, 2018

Apr 12, 2018

Affordable housing problem worsening

I’m very excited to see the city of Belfast taking action on developing more affordable housing for modest-income working people and others in Belfast, both as rentals and home ownership. When I worked helping people manage their money and buy their first homes, I was acutely aware of the reality for many hard-working folks.

As a 33-year resident of Belfast, I have a personal concern. The city tried to be proactive in reducing lot size and allowing more “Accessory Dwelling Units” along with other changes. But one of the unintended consequences of this has been that people with the means to do so have been building or buying for the short-term rental market, aka Air B&B.

Out-of-staters who want a part-time summer place have also been taking advantage of these changes to offset their expenses for a new seasonal home by doing short-term rentals. The favored properties for these uses are the cottages, “tiny homes” and tiny lots on which to build small homes, and compared to property costs where they live, Belfast prices are a steal.

On my short, dead-end street, Huntress Avenue, for example, we are seeing the possibility of four such rentals on a street with currently nine year-round households.

There is nothing wrong with any of that, per se. I also don’t have any problem with my fellow Belfastians renting out their places a few weeks of the year to make their property tax money. But the changes are having the effect of making the affordable housing problem even worse.

Short-term rentals are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing housing for modest-income households. There are many models across the country for solving some of these problems as we move forward.

Linda Buckmaster

Belfast

Salmon farm? Not so fast!

Several people have already written thoughtful letters re: the proposed salmon farm.  I’d like to add my voice to theirs, and also to reflect on the project in a broader context.

Specifically, what comes up for me are questions:

- What kind of place do we want to live in?  What do we value about Belfast?

- What do we who live here stand to gain from this project?

- What are we giving up if we allow the salmon farm proposal in it’s present form to go forward?

- What are the risks?

- What are the unknowns?

- Is it worth it?

The way I see it, we get a possible (not for sure) decrease in taxes and some jobs.

We also get a dozen or so semi-trucks per day — a huge increase in traffic and noise, unknown amounts of waste with unclear disposal plans-acres of clear cut and increase in pavement (buildings and parking). We get a new company with next to no track record building a facility five-six times larger than anything they’ve done so far. We get to take the environmental risk as well as losing a pristine natural area. If things don’t work out and they leave, what are we left with?

I don’t understand why this project is so attractive in its present form, nor why it is being rushed through so quickly. It is as if some people are mesmerized, hypnotized by the alluring vision of big money, which might dissipate if we don’t grab it quickly.

This is a very large project. We need to consider it carefully and vet it thoroughly. An environmental impact study would be essential.

My personal view is that it needs to be seriously scaled down so that it fits into our town more comfortably. Also, if the environmental concerns were addressed in a comprehensive fashion backed by facts rather than wishful thinking, perhaps we could have a fruitful conversation with Nordic Aquafarms and come up with a truly viable plan.

A critical City Council meeting re: rezoning for this project will take place on Tuesday, April 17, 6:30 p.m.  at the Belfast City Hall. If you have concerns, now’s the time to voice them!

Deborah Capwell

Belfast

Fish farm pros and cons

I share the environmental concerns about the fish farm that others have expressed, and I have equally strong concerns about Belfast's future. Already our main street is looking more and more like every charming tourist town, and we are now “the go to place in the Midcoast.”

Belfast also has the more meaningful reputation of being “funky” and a community where diversity is truly practiced, not just celebrated in a street fair once a year. One of the ingredients of such diversity is a varied local economy, one where working-class people can make a living.

If we sacrifice that, Belfast will become yet another haven exclusively for those who can afford to live here, and the colorful, funky, life-affirming nature of Belfast will be lost. And I am quite certain that those arguing against the fish farm would not want that any more than I would.

Instead of simply rejecting the fish farm, let's campaign to modify the proposal, so that it is environmentally acceptable and a great opportunity for many to earn a living wage.

Just imagine, Belfast could become a model community that has the best of both worlds.

Joanne Boynton

Belfast

Further study needed

We are looking forward to the April 17 public hearing and hope that answers will be available for the many questions that have arisen from the proposal by Nordic Aquafarms.

The most pressing question is to understand why the urgency to change the zoning status. While city officials may have been negotiating with Nordic Aquafarms for several months, the public information began only in early February. To vote on the zoning change in two months at best appears hurried.

The apparent haste of Belfast city officials to move this project forward, without requiring an environmental impact study, belie any recollection of Belfast’s-not-so-distant past. As a life-long Belfast area resident, I have witnessed firsthand the negative impact of industry on the coastal bay waters, as well as the allocation of quality drinking water to industry over residential needs.

Having survived many years of industrial abuse, the Belfast waterfront is now a beautiful and financial asset to the community. Any use of Penobscot Bay should be thoroughly evaluated.

And lastly, how confident can we be about the viability of Nordic Aquafarms? It is a relatively new company that has yet to receive permitting for its first European site. There is no track record to evaluate; yet this proposal offers a scale that is more than 10 times the size of their present site under construction in Europe.

Before we embark on this venture that replaces a pristine recreational area with an industrial site many questions need to be answered.

Randy and Jackie Curtis

Belfast

Too big a risk

I’d like to add my voice to the concerned Belfast (and beyond) residents who question the viability of the proposed Nordic Aquafarms project to develop the largest land-based salmon farm in the world in Belfast. I attended the March 15 meeting (Water District) and the March 31 meeting with City Council, I have read the NAF website, read articles and letters about this proposal, and have talked about the project with many friends and neighbors.

Dated January 2018, the Nordic Aquafarms website states it has entered into “agreements” on a Belfast property for construction of the “...largest aquatank in the world...” and “Construction start is planned in 2019.” I find this posting troubling, as it would seem that this gigantic project is moving full-steam ahead.

I am not convinced that this project is in the best interest of Belfast. First, I believe it is too big a risk to the sustainability of the watershed and that the destruction of natural habitat along the beautiful Little River is simply untenable.

Second, there is no guarantee that taxes will be reduced as a result of this Norwegian corporation establishing an as-yet-unprecedented (in size) fish farm in our city.

The 40 acres of land designated for this project is a quiet place filled with natural beauty that is irreplaceable. This land is presently inhabited and visited by a variety of wildlife and quite easily accessible by foot, bike or car from downtown Belfast. A beautiful river flowing into a magnificent ocean bay. A rare gem for hiking, bird-watching and quiet.

Considering the tremendous scope of this project, and the huge impact it will have on the land, on the bay, on our water sources and the lives of the people and animals who live in and around the area, I don’t think the benefits come anywhere near outweighing the losses.

The increased number of large transport trucks entering and exiting the planned facility will increase traffic snags on Route 1 and add to more noise and pollution (exhaust fumes) for the residents and businesses along this road.

The outflow into the bay from this facility’s product processing will add to an already high level of output from towns and cities in the Midcoast. The estimates are 33,000 tons of product a year. How much outflow does that mean pouring into our bay? (Add that to outflow from the planned fish farm in Bucksport).

What about odor for neighboring residents? Will the salmon produced at this facility be an affordable addition to the diets of low- to medium-wage earners locally or will it be shipped to high-end food markets and restaurants all over the country?

I understand the benefits of a potential 60 more jobs created and the tax revenue that such an enterprise might generate; however, Nordic Aquafarms has no proven track record of a facility of this size. The company is barely 4 years old and if the project fails, and the land is forever compromised, then what are we left with?

Can Belfast work toward being a world leader and be put on the map as a center of vigorous land stewardship practices, as natural resource protectors, and perhaps promote and establish more organic farming, time-tested sustainable agricultural and renewable energy endeavors? I think so.

Conny Hatch

Belfast

Too much, too fast!

In 2017, the International Salmon Farmers Association released a study of 11 currently operating land-based fish farms, producing between 300 and 1,000 tons of fish annually. The take-away from this study is that while land-based aquaculture may avoid some of the problems associated with net pen ocean fish farming, there are significant issues still being worked out (https://tinyurl.com/yb39xjvq).

The Nordic Aquafarms project proposal for Belfast is 33 times larger in scope than the largest of the farms studied, larger than any fish farm in the world. As such, the model for NAF’s proposal is purely theoretical, and is being planned by a company that only incorporated in 2014.

What are the problems highlighted by the ISFA report?

Energy:

· Land-based aquaculture is energy intensive. For every pound of fish produced, there are 263 pounds of carbon footprint.

· In seeking new innovations to feed a growing population, future food production methods should seek to decrease rather than increase environmental impacts.

Fish welfare:

· For land-based fish farming to be profitable, fish must be grown in high densities, resulting in demonstrated stress, slow growth, and reported outbreaks of disease.

· If a pathogen enters the tanks, it necessitates a complete emptying and scrubbing of the filters. Entire tanks of fish can be lost to disease.

· Contrary to NAF’s stated intention, at this time there is no USDA organic standard for farmed fish.

· Testing of “organic” farm-raised salmon has revealed traces of PCBs, mercury, dioxin, and other toxic contaminants.

Intensive water requirements:

· Based on the analyses of the ISFA report, the Belfast fish farm proposal would require nearly 60 billion gallons of water annually.

· Some of this water would be fresh, and some would be mixed with salt water.

· The pumping of water is a major contributor to energy consumption.

Quantifiable environmental impact:

· NAF’s proposed project on 40 acres of pristine habitat along the Little River in Belfast would allow for up to 28 acres to be cleared and covered with tanks, buildings and pavement.

· Removal of large quantities of water from the aquifer could result in serious impact to local wells, loss of water in the Little River and reservoir, salinization of the aquifer, and potential collapse of portions of the topography.

· Large amounts of wastewater will be discharged into Penobscot Bay. Although NAF plans to remove 90 percent of solids from this discharge, the remaining solids will be high in nitrogen.

· In marine environments, excess nitrogen can cause blooms of algae and phytoplankton, loss of marine vegetation habitats for young fish and invertebrates, decreased oxygen concentrations in bottom waters, and declines in commercial fisheries (usgs.gov/edu/gwdepletion.html, groundwater.org, main.gov/dep/water/nutrient-criteria/index.html).

Nordic Aquafarms has spent half of 2017 in negotiations behind closed doors with the city and Belfast Water District. The project was made public at the beginning of February. City councilors are tasked with voting on a proposed zoning change on April 17 that will clear the way for next steps.

This is too much, too fast, and we are asking for the process to slow down! Please send any comments or concerns to wmarshall@cityofbelfast.org.

Ellie Daniels

Belfast

Street trash cleanup: Need your help

The first Belfast roadside trash cleanup is really catching fire. Set for Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, the goal is to clean every road in Belfast! Belfast has 59 miles of road and organizers need your help if we want to clean it all. Would your organization like to be a part of this?

Rotary, Lions, PTA, churches, Boy and Girl scouts, etc.? School groups? Would your business like to be a part of this effort? Many businesses are getting involved to help pick up garbage, organize teams, and be sponsors. We need your help.

How about your family? Bring grandma and the kids too! Maybe you’re just one person or have a couple friends or kids who want to help? We need your help.

Who’s involved so far? Cornerspring Montessori School, Waldo County General Hospital, Katwalk, Mathews Brothers, The Colonial Theatre, athenahealth, Troy Howard Middle School, Capt. Albert Stevens School, Three Tides and Marshall Wharf, Front Street Pub, Bell the Cat, Bank of America, Pinkerton & Sons Disposal, Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, Riposta’s Funeral Home, Glow Salon, Inner Sense Screen Printing, Delvino’s, City of Belfast, Belfast Parks and Recreation, Our Town Belfast, Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, On Process, Cold Comfort Theatre, and many more coordinators and volunteers.

Get the picture? It’s happening. Get on board. Many hands will lighten the load.

This is planned and organized to be an inclusive and fun event.

We estimate 59 miles of road will reveal over 100,000 pounds of garbage. Many businesses will be taking their employees and friends out on Friday, May 11. Saturday, May 12, is the big day. While brave adults work the roads, school kids from Troy Howard and CASS have committed to cleaning the beaches of Belfast.

This is going to be big. With your help we can do it.

Saturday, May 12, team leaders will meet up at 7 a.m. in the parking lot between Front Street Shipyard and Front Street Pub. After the teams spread out and do the clean-up there will be a big cookout in the parking area next to Front Street Pub. Yes, picking up garbage littered along the road is going to be fun and it even comes with hot dogs.

Please go to the Facebook page, Keeping Belfast Maine Beautiful, to register. Follow the Facebook page to be kept up-to-date. For more information, write to Norm Poirier at parksandrec@cityofbelfast.org or call 323-2629.

We meet every Monday at 6 p.m. at Belfast City Hall. Please join us or plan to show up Saturday morning, May 12.

Mike Hurley

Belfast

An excellent listener

I heard about Caitlin Hills before I met her. A friend kept bragging about how smart she was, what a good mother she was, how much she cared for the environment and rescue animals, how articulate and thoughtful she was. It got a little extreme, but Jane was extreme.

After my friend's sudden passing, I came to know Caitlin much better and wish Jane were still here so I could tell her that she was right.

Things I discovered: Caitlin has a law degree and is a college instructor. She carefully and thoughtfully weighs all sides of issues. Since she has written legislation that became law, she already knows the legislative process so she can immediately start working effectively for us in Augusta. She values education, is chair of our school board, wants all children to be safe in school, and favors sensible gun legislation.

Caitlin believes that accessible, affordable health care for all ages is vital. Families with children, single adults and seniors need affordable housing and reasonable property taxes, so the state needs to meet its obligation and to pay the required 55 percent of school funding and change the school funding formula spread school costs more fairly.

If you see Caitlin at Thursday morning coffees, attending a community event, at a house party or knocking on your door, talk to her, ask her questions and give her your opinions because, you will find that she is an excellent listener and you will learn for yourself that she would represent you well in Augusta.

For an intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful state representative for District 97 who can be effective on day one, vote for Caitlin Hills June 12 in the Democratic primary . We need her in Augusta.

Karen Emery-Estey

Belfast

Energetic, available and devoted

Looking for a candidate that goes beyond the standard party lines? Looking for good old-fashioned values of accountability and integrity? Looking for someone who is interested in your issues and makes himself available to the public? Then take a look at Jonathan Fulford for U.S. Congress.

Jonathan truly wants to make a difference for Maine families. He’s not interested in politics for power. He’s interested in representing you because he wants our kids to grow up with opportunities for a good life right here in Maine. He wants our seniors to live in health and safety within caring communities. He wants working folks to have opportunities for meaningful employment and small businesses to have the climate in which to thrive.

I’ve known Jonathan Fulford for over 20 years. When he decided to devote himself to public service after 30 years in construction and agriculture, he did it because he wants a future for his grandchildren.

Jonathan follows bills closely at the State House, attends workshops and panels, stays up late at night researching, all to educate himself on the issues. He has knocked on over 20,000 doors in the region to hear what you have to say. Ask him a question about an issue and he will not only tell you volumes, he’ll first ask you what you think.

When Jonathan dives deep into an issue he sees not only its complexity, but the hope for a positive outcome. Our nation is at a crossroads where we can either respond with fear that leads us into us-versus-them policies that harm many, or we can open our minds and hearts to creative solutions that help us all.

Jonathan has clear positions that appeal to both conservatives and liberals, making him a strong candidate to unseat the incumbent, Bruce Poliquin, a congressman who does not interact with his constituents and remains silent on the most pressing issues of our day.

Jonathan Fulford has signed the Pine Tree Pledge, a pledge to refuse “dark” money that could cloud his commitment to you, the voter. He understands the necessity of a health care system that works for everyone and is committed to universal health care.

Jonathan understands that by addressing climate change, we will benefit from the tremendous economic innovation that will result when we convert from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable-based economy. Not only will this spur an improvement in the economic outlook for our state; it will help preserve the great traditions of hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, agriculture, and forestry on which Maine is built.

Let’s put someone in Congress who is energetic, available, and devoted to us. Elect Jonathan Fulford for Congress!

Elise Brown

Liberty


Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.