PORTLAND – The city has adopted a landmark change to the zoning for its central waterfront, relaxing restrictions to allow more non-marine uses on Portland’s major piers and wharves.

Pier and wharf owners say that expanding non-marine uses of the waterfront will bring in more revenue from tenants such as restaurants, retailers and offices, and enable them to maintain their properties and make Portland a better port of call.

Commercial fishermen say the pier owners have a right to make enough money to maintain their properties, but they remain concerned that marine enterprises could eventually be displaced.

The City Council voted 7-2 Monday night to adopt the zoning changes for the waterfront between the Maine State Pier and the International Marine Terminal.

“In the long run, I think the changes will be good,” said Jim Holden, a lobsterman who spoke at the council meeting. “I don’t think the city will let anyone build condos on the waterfront again.”

Holden was evicted from Central Wharf in the 1980s when it was converted into the Chandler’s Wharf condominium complex. That development spurred a citywide referendum that led to many of Portland’s current waterfront zoning restrictions.

The zoning adopted by the City Council this week will relax restrictions in the central waterfront zone. Pier owners negotiated the changes with fishermen over several months. The proposal was reviewed by the Planning Board and the council’s Community Development Committee.

Steve DiMillo, whose family owns Long Wharf, said the changes will give pier owners more income to pay for expensive maintenance and dredging because non-marine tenants pay higher rents.

“Our goal was to allow property owners to see increased rents for their property, which will allow us to keep up with our infrastructure,” DiMillo said.

Mayor Nicholas Mavodones said the zoning change means that as much as 45 percent of the space on the first floor of a building in the zone can be rented for non-marine uses. The previous regulation required that all first-floor space be for marine purposes.

Mavodones said fishermen will be protected because the zoning requires pier owners to advertise all vacancies to the marine community first for 60 days. If the space is not filled, pier owners can then rent it to non-marine tenants.

Holden, who fishes from Widgery Wharf, said he thinks the changes will work.

“I have mixed feelings, but if (pier owners) don’t do something, the whole place will fall down,” he said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at:

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