LEGAL CANNABIS

Amid protests, Portland council delays vote on moratorium for pot-related businesses

A Washington State cannabis business has sunk a half-million dollars into building a new testing and processing lab in Portland. The owners of Xtracted New England say they are on the verge of opening a top-notch, engineer-certified, explosion-proof operation that will create 20 new jobs, the least of which will pay $15 an hour. They’re just waiting on the final city permit.

Xtracted’s plans could go up in smoke – or at least take a serious hit – if the City Council votes to enact a six-month moratorium on new medical marijuana cultivation facilities, retail stores, testing labs and extraction labs. The council is considering whether to apply it retroactively to all proposals submitted since state lawmakers passed a new medical marijuana law in June.

Xtracted was one of a half-dozen cannabis businesses that spoke out against the moratorium Monday, saying it was unfair to those who already had spent a lot of money on lawyers, architects, engineers, consultants and properties to develop proposals based on the city’s existing land-use and building codes, which do not single out marijuana for special review.

The council unanimously agreed to delay its decision until at least Oct. 1. Read the story.

UTILITIES

Regulators find CMP, Emera responded ‘reasonably’ to intense October windstorm

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has concluded that Central Maine Power Co. and Emera Maine responded “reasonably” to an intense rain and wind storm last October that led to record blackouts in much of the state, based on the best available weather forecasts at the time. The decision, which came in a unanimous vote Tuesday by the three commissioners, ends an investigation into whether the state’s utilities took the right steps to plan for the Oct. 29 storm and restore service after it had passed. Roughly 467,000 CMP customers and 90,000 Emera customers lost power; small numbers were out for more than a week. Tuesday’s action followed a fact-finding probe that included examining storm reports and posing questions to CMP and Emera. Read the story.

SEAFOOD INDUSTRY

Maine dealers say China is inflating prices on U.S. lobster as part of tariff war

Maine lobster dealers say China is improperly inflating the market price of lobster to increase its punitive tariff on U.S. live lobster imports. Chinese customs officials have been calculating the 25 percent tariff on U.S. lobsters based on the market value of higher-priced Canadian hard-shell lobsters, the dealers say. U.S. firm-shell lobsters usually cost $3 to $4 less per pound than Canadian hard-shells. The tariff China is imposing on U.S. lobsters already gives Canadian lobster dealers a competitive advantage that Maine dealers have found almost impossible to overcome in the valuable lobster export market, dealers say. They fear the additional cost of a tariff based on the higher-priced Canadian lobster will scare away the few Chinese customers still willing to consider buying U.S. lobsters. Read the story.

Lobster industry’s trouble overseas adds urgency to driving up U.S. demand

With overseas markets shaky at best, the leaders of Maine’s $1.4 billion lobster industry came together Wednesday to talk about how to drive up demand and get top dollar in the one market they can count on – the United States. It’s a conversation that began long before China slapped a 25 percent tariff on U.S. lobsters, closing the door on a $128.5 million-a-year market, or the European Union inked its trade deal with Canada, driving down European exports by 27 percent. But industry leaders say these international trade challenges make it more important than ever to agree on a strategy of how to use the industry’s limited marketing dollars to sell more Maine lobster to U.S. consumers. Read the story.

Ready Seafood gets final permit for Maine’s largest lobster processing operation

Ready Seafood has nabbed the last local permit it needs to build a $10 million lobster processing, storage and research center in Saco. On Monday, the city’s Planning Board unanimously approved Ready Seafood’s plan to build a 64,000-square-foot facility on a 40-acre lot at 1016 Route 1. When the building is completed in 12 to 14 months, Ready Seafood will be the largest of Maine’s half-dozen lobster processors, capable of handling 100,000 pounds of Maine’s signature crustacean every day. Ready plans to hire 40 to 50 people to staff the new operation, bringing its total payroll to about 250 mostly full-time jobs. Read the story.

Lobster pound owner says she has a kinder ‘exit strategy’ for her lobsters: Get them stoned

A local lobster pound owner believes she may have found a new, marijuana-based method for killing Maine’s signature seafood species more humanely. A lobster named Roscoe was Charlotte Gill’s first test subject. In her experiment, Gill placed Roscoe in a covered box with about two inches of water at the bottom. Marijuana smoke was then blown into the water. Gill’s hypothesis is that the pot sedates the lobsters, making their deaths less traumatic. Read the story.

Discovery of immature lobsters in deep Down East waters may be good news for industry

The discovery of baby lobsters in the deep waters off eastern Maine could be good news for the future of the U.S.’s most valuable fishery. Since 1989, scientists led by University of Maine professor Richard Wahle have looked for baby lobsters at 100 shallow-water test sites from Rhode Island to New Brunswick to monitor the health of this fishery. The number of babies found in the samples started to decline about a decade ago, leading scientists to worry that a population bust may be looming. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE

August continued ‘banner year’ for Maine home sales

August sales remained strong for existing, single-family homes in Maine, with sales volume up nearly 6 percent and home values up nearly 7 percent from a year earlier. According to Maine Listings, 2,072 existing Maine homes were sold in August, a 5.9 percent increase compared with August 2017. The median sale price for those homes increased by 6.8 percent from a year earlier to $220,000, it said. The median price indicates that half of the homes were sold for more money and half sold for less. Read the story.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Officials aim to strengthen Portland’s finances by expanding tax-shelter programs

Portland officials plan to add more than a dozen properties to the city’s network of tax shelter districts, a move that could shield hundreds of millions of new tax value from state assessments and protect the city from reductions in state aid. The city also wants to expand the possible uses for tax revenues resulting from new development in the districts to include a broader range of infrastructure and job-creation projects. The Portland City Council’s Economic Development Committee voted Tuesday to recommend a package of changes to Portland’s three biggest Tax Increment Financing districts covering the waterfront, downtown and Bayside. Read the story.

Portland panel endorses sale of city-owned plot to local biotech firm

A city-owned business subdivision in Portland may get its second tenant – five years after the property opened. The City Council’s Economic Development Committee on Tuesday night endorsed granting an option to buy a 3½-acre parcel in the Portland Technology Park to Capricorn Products LLC, a biotechnology firm in the city. Under the deal, Capricorn would have 12 months to buy the parcel, off Rand Road, from the city for $420,000. The proposal still needs approval from the full City Council. Read the story.

RETAIL INDUSTRY

Westbrook approves first phase of project that includes Market Basket

The Westbrook Planning Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved plans for the first phase of what could eventually become a 100-acre mixed use development near Westbrook’s border with Portland. The approval is the last major local hurdle for the start of the Rock Row development on what used to be a quarry near Main Street and Larrabee Road. Plans for handling drainage and traffic around the development are pending with state officials, an engineer representing the developer said. The initial phase calls for a Market Basket grocery store, which is expected to open by November 2019, and eight other buildings on the northwest corner of the site. A bank, a coffee shop, a restaurant and a handful of other retail uses will also go up in the next year, the developer said. Read the story.

Rosemont Market plans a new store on Route 1 in Falmouth

Rosemont Market and Bakery is expanding once again, this time to a 2,000-square-foot location in Falmouth. The new store, scheduled to open in early winter at 231 Route 1, will be the seventh Rosemont Market to open since 2005 and the second largest. Co-owners John Naylor and Scott Anderson already have four stores in Portland, one in Yarmouth, and one in Cape Elizabeth. The last opened less than a year ago. Read the story.


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