The Biddeford City Council on Tuesday gave initial approval to a contract zone that would allow the caretakers of Wood Island Lighthouse to install a septic system in the newly renovated keeper’s house.

The Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse, a nonprofit organization that cares for the lighthouse, sought the contract zone so it could install a septic system that could allow a keeper to stay at the lighthouse overnight. Plans for the island also include hosting educational programs and possibly allowing overnight stays for small groups of people. If the organization decides to move ahead with overnight stays, it would need approval from the Coast Guard.

The council voted 7-2 in favor of the contract zone, which will require a second council vote. Councilors Michael Ready and John McCurry voted against the contract zone.

The new septic system would replace the defunct overboard discharge system that had previously been used. Interior renovations of the keeper’s house are expected to be done by midsummer. The exterior renovation of the lighthouse and keeper’s house has already been completed.

City staff had recommended the contract zone because it would allow the septic work to be done without making changes to the shoreland zoning along the rest of the city’s coast. The City Council expressed interest in the concept of the contract zone and referred the issue to the Planning Board to work out the details.

Wood Island Lighthouse has been part of Maine maritime history for more than 200 years. The U.S. government bought 8 acres at the eastern end of the island in 1806 to build a lighthouse to guide mariners into Winter Harbor and to the Saco River. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the lighthouse in 1808. The first keeper’s house on the island was built in 1857 and 1858. The current keeper’s house was remodeled in 1906 to include a gambrel roof and columned open porch.

A keeper last lived at the lighthouse in 1986. In recent years, the island has been a popular destination for kayakers and visitors who take tours put on by Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse.

The all-volunteer Friends group has been raising money since 2003 to preserve and restore the lighthouse and keeper’s house. All work at Wood Island is done using National Park Service restoration guidelines as administered by the Maine State Historic Preservation Commission and the Coast Guard.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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