SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A new 47-page harbor management plan will be added to the town’s Comprehensive Plan, if voters at town meeting next month approve.
The document may help the town with related grant applications, according to Harbormaster Adam Thurston.
The Board of Selectmen initially asked for the plan in 2016, hoping it would help the town better understand its assets and improve harbor facilities for residents and visitors alike.
In October 2017, residents of the town approved the purchase of what has been called the Hook property and is adjacent to the Manset Town Dock. Formerly owned by Carolyn Hook, the property consisted of two parcels totaling 0.43 acres. The town leased the land for at least 25 years before purchasing it for $335,000.
At a public hearing Tuesday on the proposal to add the harbor plan as an addendum to the comprehensive plan, one resident noted that it was discouraging that the town had not made more progress on development of the property.
According to Town Clerk Marilyn Lowell, the Harbor Committee has surveyed the area and is working on a grant to secure funding.
“We’re not trying to obstruct the work of the Harbor Committee,” said Selectman Lydia Goetze. “But we’re looking to the Harbor Committee for leadership so that we can raise funds as we can.”
Donahue said that he visited the site during the winter and portions of the property were underwater. “We need to raise it,” he said.
The Harbor Committee has already determined the high water mark based on elevation, and it appears the town will be able to raise the level of the current lot significantly.
However, the town will need to create a plan for development that complies with the Natural Resource Protection Act, which requires permits from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for construction and filling-related activities on tidal wetlands.
A paved and expanded parking lot with a lane for cars should relieve summer traffic congestion, which everyone agrees is a problem.
“I’ve gone there to launch a speed boat,” Chairman Chad Terry said. “It gets pretty busy.”
John Stanley, a fisherman who serves on the Harbor Committee, said he considers the site of the proposed parking lot to be located on the noncommercial side of the harbor. But he says a parking lot on that site will benefit local fishermen. The current town boat launch sits close to the commercial fishing area, and commercial fishermen and recreational boaters are often in each other’s way.
“Anything you can do to relieve pressure from that side of the harbor will help us,” said Stanley.
“I’ve been back here for 17 years, and we were talking about this then,” said selectman Kristin Hutchins “I’m delighted to see us move forward. The harbor is an asset.”
Two other public hearings on proposed changes to the town’s land use ordinance drew no discussion or public comment.
One zoning change would reduce the minimum residential floor space in all zones to 250 square feet, from the current minimum of 500 square feet.
A second proposed amendment to the land use ordinance for voters to decide is changing the wording on Section VI, N-2 from “a permit must be obtained from the Town of Southwest Harbor’s Sewer Department” to “Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District (the District).”