After the Freeport Shellfish Commission’s proposal for a municipal aquaculture program was met with opposition last fall, its new proposal for operating under the state’s existing aquaculture leasing program goes before the Ordinance Committee tonight.

According to Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph, the Town Council Ordinance Committee considered an amendment to the town’s shellfish ordinance last year that would have created a municipal aquaculture program.

The program would have leased or licensed portions of the intertidal mud flats to individual shellfish harvesters. However, the Ordinance Committee recommended that instead of developing its own leasing or licensing system, the town should utilize the existing state aquaculture process established by state statute several years ago.

One of the key components of the state leasing process is the opportunity for the town to weigh in and approve or disapprove of any applications that are made within Freeport, Joseph wrote in an email to residents about tonight’s meeting.

The Shellfish Commission has developed a set of criteria that would be used to review any state applications made within Freeport. Those criteria, written in the form of an ordinance, have been sent to the Ordinance Committee for review.

The Ordinance Committee will meet tonight at 6 p.m. in Town Council Chambers to consider the proposal. Joseph was asked to notify all neighbors and interested parties who asked to be on an email list to stay informed on this process.

“To be clear, this amendment would not create any new municipal leasing programs or opportunities beyond those that currently exist under state law,” Joseph said. “Also, it is important to note that the state leasing program requires landowner permission, which was a controversial subject in the discussions surrounding the original town lease/licensing discussions.”

There are several criteria included in the draft ordinance. Among them, applicants “must provide municipal authorities written permission from landowners, if applicable, and a copy of any agreements with landowners of intertidal land in, on or over, which shellfish aquaculture activity will occur, as well as written permission and agreements with owners of private property required for access to the lease site.”

As proposed, they also must verify that the lease conforms to the town’s shellfish conservation program and show that the proposed lease is in the best interests of the town.

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