OWLS HEAD, MAINE — Two midcoast lobster businesses got help Tuesday when they were approved as working waterfront projects by the board of Land for Maine’s Future.
The state Department of Marine Resources and the Land for Maine’s Future program announced two awards totaling $526,250 to Bremen Lobster Realty Co-Op in Bremen and the Ship to Shore Lobster Co. in Owls Head to preserve commercial fisheries’ use of the properties.
The money from the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program in effect is awarded by the state program to the businesses in exchange for the properties’ development and use rights.
“They are selling all of the development and use rights of the property, except for commercial fishing uses,” said Jim Connors of the Maine State Planning Office, which has jurisdiction over the Land for Maine’s Future program.
The exchange results in a covenant on each property that restricts future development of the land that conflicts with fisheries’ use, according to a press release from the LMF board.
Both recipients are planning to improve their properties and retire debt with the funds, which will help them operate successfully, Connors said.
The board is working with 11 such projects, said Connors.
“They haven’t all quite closed yet,” he said.
“A lot of them have easement kinds of arrangements,” he said. “The holders are selling away part of their property rights for the fair market value, which we established through appraisals.”
Connors said the holders “can secure the property for commercial fishing use over time and use the proceeds for their own benefit.”
The program also can help the holders with property taxes through the Working Waterfront Current Use program, which was approved by voters two years ago.
“If the property does have any covenants on it, that’s probably the evidence that it does qualify for working waterfront for taxation,” Connors said.
Marine Resources Commissioner George Lapointe, who is also the chairman of the LMF board, pointed out that when commercial fisheries properties are transferred to residential use or other forms of development, they are lost forever as access points for Maine’s commercial fishermen.
“These projects are important investments to Maine’s fishing future,” Lapointe said.
The LMF board said the properties in Owls Head and Bremen are important to the state’s economy and to the welfare of their host towns. The two fishing facilities serve 54 commercial boats and their crews, the press release noted.
The Owls Head property contains a large wharf with more than 14,200 square feet and provides the only public access for boating in the town. Current owners Rodney Mason and Anna Mason intend to increase the number of boats that now land seafood there and expand their lobster purchasing to include other wholesale seafoods throughout the area, DMR noted.
“Anna and I are very pleased with the grant approval, Rodney Mason said in a statement.
The Bremen property began operating as a lobster pound and buying station nearly 80 years ago. The Bremen Co-Op was formed in 1995 when the principal lobstermen in the area got together to buy the land and waterfront structures that occupy 13 acres with 685 feet of prime ocean frontage, according to DMR.
The co-op members intend to use the award to repair and maintain their lobster pounds, to remove the decaying hull of the Cora Cressy, a large wooden schooner beached in 1938 that blocks effective access to the co-op’s piers, and to make other improvements.
Dan Goldenson, spokesman for the co-op, said, “We are grateful to the state of Maine for its generous assistance at a time when commercial fishing is under numerous pressures.”