Shrimp fishery closed for fifth year

Regional fisheries managers voted Wednesday to keep Maine’s commercial shrimp fishery closed for another year amid assessments showing record-low numbers of shrimp in the Gulf of Maine. The northern shrimp section of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission opted to extend for a fifth year, through 2018, the moratorium on shrimp fishing in northern New England to allow depleted stocks to rebuild. Fishermen and Maine’s representatives on the shrimp panel had been pushing for a modest commercial fishery – ranging from 500 to 2,000 tons – but failed to convince their counterparts from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The decision frustrated Commissioner Patrick Keliher of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, who responded by saying Maine would not participate in the planned 13.3-ton “research set-aside” fishery for shrimp. Read the story.


Portland officials to consider condo regulations

A Portland city councilor is proposing a temporary moratorium on development in Munjoy Hill while officials call for a review of an ordinance to regulate the conversion of rental units into condominiums. The ordinance, as currently written, kicks in when an existing rental unit is sold as a condo, not when a building full of apartments is torn down and replaced by a new building full of condos. The demolition of affordable housing for boxy new condos is a trend that is alarming some residents on Munjoy Hill, a highly desirable neighborhood near Portland’s downtown that has views of Casco Bay. Councilor Belinda Ray has proposed a moratorium, which would prohibit tear-downs for six months and freeze all development on the hill for 45 days. It is lined up for a Dec. 18 vote by the City Council. Read the story.

Camelot Farm development gets Planning Board OK

A proposed residential subdivision that triggered a citywide zoning referendum in Portland is moving forward, despite a pending lawsuit against the city. The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved over 120 units of housing on 55 acres at 1700 Westbrook St. known as Camelot Farm. The approvals for “Stroudwater Preserve” include a subdivision plan for 98 single-family homes, as well as site plan approval for 25 townhouses near Interstate 95. Developer Michael Barton said he hopes to break ground on the project this spring. The first phase would include building the road and 52 single-family homes in former pasture land that up until last fall was used for grazing cattle. Barton said it would take a couple years to finish that part of the project, but he expected construction on the townhouses to begin in 2018. Read the story.

Mixed-use housing project pitched for South Portland neighborhood

Avesta Housing submitted a much-anticipated proposal to South Portland planners Thursday for a 64-unit housing project that would be built in the city’s West End neighborhood and target mostly low-income families. The five-story West End Apartments would be built at 586 Westbrook St., site of Le Variety and the West End Neighborhood Resource Hub, and would include ground-level commercial space for both the convenience store and the social services agency, according to Avesta’s application. The $13 million project is being developed in collaboration with store owner and entrepreneur Quang Nguyen of Portland, who purchased a small parcel next door last summer because he wanted Avesta to build housing on the combined properties. Read the story.


Portland farming group wins federal grant

A Portland nonprofit that has helped create more than 50 farm businesses in the last eight years has received a nearly $600,000 federal grant to assist more Maine farmers. Cultivating Community is the recipient of a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The money will be used for land access, help with product diversification and market access, and to provide training to new Americans, veterans and other small-scale producers. Cultivating Community’s farmer trainings have helped create 52 farm businesses, and it estimates that the new $597,252 grant will generate 30 more while supporting 12 beginning farmers and providing services for up to 490 others, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. Read the story.


Private bus companies oppose USM-Metro deal

A coalition of four Maine bus firms has accused Portland Metro of using taxpayer subsidies to undercut private companies interested in providing a university student shuttle service. Criticism is focused on a deal between Metro and the University of Southern Maine to provide a transit pass program for students and staff. The arrangement is part of Metro’s $4.5 million Transit West project, a major expansion that includes new bus service between Portland and Gorham in 2018. On Tuesday, opponents of the plan unveiled Taxpayers for Wise Transit Spending, a campaign to pressure USM to cancel its contract with Metro and consider student shuttle bids from private companies. In a written statement, the group claimed the new arrangement will be inefficient and will only benefit Metro by directing more taxpayer money to the agency. But USM officials say the plan benefits students, the environment and reduces traffic congestion. Read the story.

 Brewery installs EV charging stations

Patrons of Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick will be able to charge electric vehicles for free at the brewery beginning Friday. The brewery partnered with Revision Energy and Tesla Motors to install four vehicle charging stations at its Atlantic Avenue location at Brunswick Landing, according to a statement. Three of the chargers are for Tesla vehicles and the fourth is a Level 2 charger for other brands of electric vehicles. Read the story.


SBA lending breaks record

A record amount of money was loaned to Maine businesses in 2017 through the U.S. Small Business Administration. More than 50 Maine lenders approved more than $165 million worth of business loans through all SBA programs, a 26 percent increase over 2016, according to a statement from the federal agency. The recipients of SBA’s 2017 Lender Awards will be honored at a ceremony set for Dec. 7 at the Governor Hill Mansion in Augusta. The ceremony will be accompanied by panel discussions about federal programs to help small businesses grow export markets. Read the story.


Pot moratorium divides Augusta council

Augusta city councilors had a sharply divided reaction Thursday to a proposal to enact a local six-month moratorium banning the sale of recreational marijuana, with some councilors saying the city and the state already have had more than a year to come up with regulations but failed to do so. Other councilors, however, said the city didn’t enact local rules because officials expected the Legislature to come up with statewide regulations and they didn’t want to waste city staff time coming up with local regulations if they weren’t needed. Councilors will vote next week on a proposal to form a committee to consider local rules for regulating commercial recreational marijuana activities. Read the story.

Rockland reviewing local pot ordinances

Rockland is considering ordinances to regulate local medical marijuana operations. The city council is expected to review proposals at its Nov. 29 meeting. The ordinances would regulate an approval process and determine where the facilities could be located, according to the Courier-Gazette. The council gave preliminary approval to the new ordinances at its Nov. 13 meeting by a 3-2 vote. Formal public hearings and a final vote are set for Dec. 11. Read the story.


Two more urgent care clinics to open

ConvenientMD, a New Hampshire chain of urgent care clinics, will open its first two Maine locations in the next two weeks. One clinic will start seeing patients in downtown Westbrook on Thursday. The second will open in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood in two weeks. They will treat anything from an insect bite to broken bones, and the company says its goal is to get patients in and out the door in under an hour. There are at least nine walk-in clinics already operating in Greater Portland. Mercy Hospital has Mercy Express Care locations in Portland, Westbrook, Gorham, Windham and Yarmouth. Maine Medical Center also runs Brighton FirstCare in Portland near the Westbrook line. Read the story.