Proposed zoning change pits benefit to few against needs of community
Having followed the ongoing proposals, I would remind people of the following:
Boothbay Harbor was listed on Maine Preservations’ Most Endangered List because of the threat to our Working Waterfront. Maine statutes state the purpose of a Maritime District is to: protect traditional water-dependent uses and to conserve points of public access to the water. The current zoning proposal flies in the face of this.
The town seems to have chosen to ignore the recommendations of the independent planner hired to review the proposed zoning. The town appears to be forging ahead with an ill-conceived zoning proposal that would turn 77 percent of the Maritime District into a Limited Commercial District, absent any provision for public access to the water. Planner Rasor stated that the proposed zoning is “inconsistent with the goals and objectives outlined in the Town’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan.” He noted, “By allowing hospitality uses to expand in the district, future incompatibilities may be exacerbated between the different users of the harbor.” Rasor adds that the proposals will decrease protection for water-dependent uses and will not increase public access to the water.
The developer’s proposals are based on trickle-down economics. Another hotel and private marina will only appeal to wealthy “social sophisticates” who comprise less than 10 percent of our tourists. It will not draw others, who come to Boothbay Harbor for a view of our rocky coast and ocean, history, and culture. Recent changes by the developer have reduced the accessibility to middle-class visitors by limiting room occupancy to two and higher prices for room and dining.
Rasor concludes that “rezoning efforts should be the result of a master planning process” and research. Where is our Master Plan? Why isn’t the Select Board listening?
The 2015 Comprehensive Plan emphasized expanding opportunities for residents while preserving the character of the town that has made it so attractive to tourists in multiple income levels. That plan was deliberate and thoughtful. Further development should be part of implementing, and be consistent with, that Comprehensive Plan and a Master Plan for our Harbor.
Judy Stone, MD