John Hathaway, president of Shucks Maine Lobster, Monday addresses the Gorham Planning Board, which approved a new Shucks facility to be built in Olde Canal Business Park off Mosher Road.

Olde Canal Way in Gorham.

GORHAM — The Planning Board Monday gave the OK for a lobster processing company to build a new facility here that would employ up to 80 workers.

Shucks Maine Lobster, which has a facility in Richmond, is expanding and plans to build a 28,800-square-foot building at 65 Olde Canal Way in a business park off Mosher Road (Route 237).

John Hathaway, company president, said at Monday’s meeting that his plans include hiring up to 80 workers at the new Gorham plant.

“It’s a huge opportunity to expand into Gorham,” he said before the board voted. “The Maine lobster industry is thriving.”

After the meeting, Hathaway told the American Journal he hopes to have his new plant open by next May 1.

Tom Ellsworth, Gorham economic development director, said Wednesday development is “on a roll” in town with Sebago Brewing’s project being built and now plans for Shucks. “We’re very pleased,” Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth said Shucks is good for the town and the business park. He noted the jobs creation and expansion of the tax base for the town. “It’s a positive development all the way around,” Ellsworth said.

Shucks ships lobster meat worldwide and has won international awards, according to its website.

The nearly 2-acre lot in Olde Canal Business Park will be served by extending electrical power underground, natural gas and public water and sewer.

The company’s plan easily won approval 4-0. Scott Herrick and James Anderson were  absent and Scott Firmin, director of Waste Water Services at Portland Water District, was recused from the discussion and vote.

Planners did not require a site walk. “I don’t see any major issues,” said Edward Zelmanow, Planning Board chairman.

The company separates lobster meat from lobsters using a high-tech system. Lobsters are killed and processed in a pressure machine.

Chefs around the world like receiving uncooked lobster meat, Hathaway said.

Hathaway told planners that the shells will be loaded daily into a dump truck and hauled off site to a composting facility.

The working hours will begin at 4 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. One or two workers will be on duty 4-10 p.m. to handle deliveries.

A 9,520-square foot portion of the building will be a commercial unit available for a tenant to rent. The lot is undeveloped and wooded with a mix of trees, according to printed Planning Board material.

The site is largely remote from housing developments. No one from the public spoke in Monday’s public hearing.

The lot will have 37 parking spaces that meet the town’s ordinance, Zelmanow said. Craig Burgess of Sebago Technics, the civil engineer representing Shucks, said some employees will be bused to the site.

Planning Board member George Fox moved to approve the project and Lee Pratt seconded the motion. “It sounds like a great business for Gorham,” Fox said.

Hathaway said the company will keep its facility in Richmond.

In other action, planners recommended that the town adopt a proposed land use amendment to allow farmers to host special events, such as weddings, in the rural zone.

The measure now returns to the Town Council that asked the Planning Board to review the matter and offer its recommendation. “Policy decisions are made by the Town Council,” Zelmanow said and he added that the council would conduct a public hearing.

Cattle farmer Norm Justice, 24 Wood Road, brought the proposal forward. “It’s a new concept here in Gorham,” Justice said.

Farmers that meet the eligibility would be allowed 25 events annually. The criteria include showing evidence of potential of $10,000 income from agricultural sources and at least a 5-acre lot for the special event facility.

Gatherings would be limited to 250 people per event.

The change in land use rules appears to aim at helping farmers keep agricultural land as housing growth continues throughout the town.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or [email protected]

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