PORTLAND — Pier owners who have proposed relaxing Portland’s waterfront zoning restrictions have dropped their request to allow an additional 50 feet of dock space for pleasure boats on each pier.

More than 70 lobstermen signed a petition opposing the proposal earlier this month and presented it to the City Council.

Under the current zoning, as much as 50 feet of dock space on each pier may be used for recreational vessels. The pier owners proposed allowing as much as 100 feet of dock space for recreational vessels.

The additional pleasure boats could have been docked anywhere along a pier, including areas with deep-water and good deck access, said Willis Spear, a lobsterman who organized the petition effort.

“Since good berthing is extremely hard to get, it was possible to displace a commercial fishing boat with a (recreational) boat,” he said.

He said the pier owners’ decision to drop that proposal was “great news.”

Richard Ingalls, who represents the pier owners, said the group has asked that the proposal be withdrawn. He declined to elaborate.

The pier owners notified the city of their decision on Thursday, the day after a meeting of the City Council’s Community Development Committee. Several fishermen at the meeting voiced opposition to the proposal, saying it threatened their livelihoods.

The pier owners are moving forward with other parts of their proposal, including allowing non-marine businesses, such as offices, stores and restaurants, on as much as half of the deck of each pier and buildings’ first floors.

Portland’s central waterfront zone — between the Maine State Pier and the International Marine Terminal — now reserves each building’s entire first floor for marine uses.

The Community Development Committee will discuss the issue again on Aug. 25.

The pier owners are inviting fishermen and other interested parties to attend a meeting on Friday to discuss their proposal. The time and location have not been set.

Spear said he and other fishermen are sympathetic to the pier owners’ argument that they need more non-marine tenants so they can make enough income to pay for expensive pier maintenance and dredging.

As long as fishermen and support businesses such as bait companies aren’t threatened, a compromise is possible, Spear said.

“It’s really important that we work with the wharf owners as much as we can without jeopardizing the working waterfront,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]