The operator of the Nova Star ferry plans to set up a truck staging area on a vacant lot in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood. The plan, however, has some residents in East Bayside worried about safety risks when as many as 30 tractor-trailers a day roll through their neighborhood. Other residents support the plan.
Nova Star Cruises is trying to attract business by persuading more truckers to use the ferry to travel between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Portland. The ferry can save them 750 miles of driving each way.
But there’s not enough available parking near the Portland Ocean Gateway Terminal to accommodate both cars and trucks waiting to board the ferry. The trucks need to park elsewhere in the city, said Bill Needleman, Portland’s waterfront coordinator.
The company plans to lease an approximately 2.5-acre vacant lot at 122 Anderson St. Michael Cardente of Anderson Street Realty LLC, which owns the lot, is asking the city to approve a site plan for an “intermodal transportation facility.”
According to its application, the gravel lot would be used to stage as many as 30 tractor-trailers bound for the ferry, which departs Portland daily at 9 p.m. The lot is zoned to allow only light industrial uses.
The soil on the lot was contaminated from many decades of use as a scrap yard. After Michael Cardente’s father, Douglas Cardente, bought the lot about eight years go, he spent a lot of money cleaning it up and containing the pollution, Michael Cardente said.
But the contamination issues and restrictive zoning make it difficult to find any use for it, he said. His family owns a lot of property in the area, Cardente said, and it’s important that residents are on board with the plan.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an intrusion for the neighborhood,” he said. “At the same time, we are paying taxes. And just having a piece of property that is vacant (incurs) expenses. You have to have a tenant.”
The lot, which has fencing and lighting, is located behind Tandem Coffee Roasters and the Maine Muslim Community Center.
Jan Piribeck, who lives across the street from the site, said that Douglas Cardente has been considerate of property owners but she nevertheless is worried about trucks rolling through the neighborhood.
“Traffic would be the major worry,”she said. “There are a lot of kids moving back and forth.”
Jed Rathband, who lives on Everett Street, said the problem is with the current zoning, which is too restrictive. That leaves Cardente with few options for developing the lot without violating city zoning or angering nearby residents.
“It’s a shame that’s the highest and best use for land in today’s market with so much going on in East Bayside,” he said. “I would hope that the city and the Cardentes could all work together and find a use that meets the aspirations of the neighborhood and the city at large.”
Chris Wright, president of the East Bayside Neighborhood Association, said he’s pleased that Cardente has found a use for the lot.
“I don’t mind,” he said. “It’s a brownfield. It’s tough to find any use.”
Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for Nova Star Cruises, declined to comment.
The ferry, which operates daily between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, can carry 300 vehicles on its 10-hour trip across the Gulf of Maine. Most of the truckers now using the ferry are “backhauling” empty trucks to Nova Scotia after delivering seafood to Boston. They can sleep on the ferry and continue on their trip to restock in Nova Scotia after arriving in Yarmouth.
Needleman, from the city, said Nova Star Cruises had always planned to establish a truck staging area away from the ferry terminal. He said a staging area makes sense because trucks board the ferry after all the cars, and the paved area at the terminal is too small for cars and trucks to maneuver safely. He also said it’s a high-security area, so truckers aren’t allowed to leave once they enter.
The staff at the city’s Planning and Urban Development Department will make the final decision on the proposed site plan and use of the lot. People can comment on the plan by contacting planner Jean Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for making comments is July 11.