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Planning Board votes to consider Nordic application

Further information requested
By Kendra Caruso | Jul 27, 2020
Source: File photo. Belfast Planning Board discusses Nordic Aquafarms' land-based fish farm application at the UMaine Hutchinson Center Oct. 9.

Belfast — The Belfast Planning Board took three actions on Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed land-based fish farm site plan application at its July 15 meeting. The application is still pending review, but it is one step closer to a decision.

Five board members voted in favor of moving forward with Nordic’s preliminary site plan pending requests for more information on certain application aspects, with Hugh Townsend abstaining from voting. They found that the preliminary site plan criteria have been met and will allow Nordic to submit a final site plan application for board review.

Nordic will make additional submissions based on board requests so members can review the merits of the application, according to Codes and Planning Director Wayne Marshall.

The board requested additional information and is still waiting to see what standards the Department of Environmental Protection uses for air emissions, waste discharge into the bay and wetlands impact, because the city does not have specific criteria in its code for those issues, Marshall said.

Board member Daisy Beal discussed concerns about Nordic's having a two-year option to buy the Little River's lower dams. She said she wants the public to have control over what happens to the dam, whether it is restored or taken down.

She also requested that Nordic conduct a feasibility study of the best options for dam restoration or removal. It could be considered compensation for habitat loss to the development, she suggested. She does not want the company to block any plans the city might make for restoring the river.

City attorney Bill Kelly said Nordic had already entered a two-year contract with the Water District to reserve the right to buy the property. If Nordic does not buy the property in two years, then the contract will expire and it will be open for public discussion. He said it would be outside the city’s jurisdiction to apply a provision to the company’s permits for an unknown future event.

Nordic Project Director Ed Cotter said the company would object to any provisions changing the contract with the Water District or tying it to dam restoration. The company could conduct a study on the dam as it applies to its facility operations and make decisions based on what it finds, he said.

Townsend proposed a wording change in the application that would require Nordic to provide proof that it has a plan in the event that the dam is removed and that it can compensate for that change. Beal agreed with the suggestion.

The board went on to request a third-party review of the company’s technical capacity. It requested that Nordic plant buffer vegetation around the facility and fill in the temporary bypass road as soon as construction is finished.

Kim Ervin Tucker, attorney for intervenors Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace and the Maine Lobstering Union, filed a motion to halt the review for lack of title, right and interest. That motion was amended after intervenors’ Waldo County Superior Court case against the Board of Environmental Protection regarding the issue was dismissed.

Nordic attorney Joanna Tourangeau requested that the motion be dismissed because of the Waldo County court’s ruling.

Mabee and Grace are property owners who claim historic deeds prove they own the intertidal land in front of several properties north of theirs, including that of Janet and Richard Eckrote. The Eckrotes claim to own the intertidal land in front of their property and have agreed to issue Nordic an easement to place its discharge and intake pipes in that area.

Marshall said he does not know when the board will reach a decision on Nordic’s applications, but public hearings will be scheduled before a decision on the permits is reached.

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