Belfast residents to hear plans for Front Street Shipyard

Posted April 06, 2011, at 7:32 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — As the brand-new Front Street Shipyard begins to take shape in the former Stinson Seafood facility, Belfast residents are being asked for their two cents regarding potential changes to the city’s waterfront.

The project includes construction of a five-story building which would be the tallest on the waterfront. The city also is considering whether it should sell or lease the land for that building to the DUBBA LLC development company.

Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall said during Tuesday night’s regular City Council meeting that there will be at least nine more public hearings scheduled to discuss permits for the project.

The first of those will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, when the Belfast Comprehensive Planning Committee will consider whether the project is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, he said. The city already approved an initial proposal to install a marine travel lift that will be able to hoist ships weighing up to 165 tons.

“Phase 2 of the permitting is going to be a lot less about the water and a lot more about what happens on shore,” Marshall told councilors. “This is a significant overall development for the property.”

The former Stinson Seafood facility was sold in January to DUBBA LLC, which will do business as Front Street Shipyard. It is made up of a group of Maine maritime professionals including Taylor Allen of Rockport Marine, Steve White of Brooklin Boat Yard, Ken Priest of the Kenway Corp., and J.B. Turner of Kenway Corp., who intend to redevelop the property into a major regional shipyard.

Already, the company has knocked down the crumbling Building 1 that was adjacent to the footbridge. Workers now are making some of the maritime improvements with the goal of getting the travel lift up and running by July 1.

“It’s happening very quickly, and that’s terrific,” Councilor Mike Hurley said.

Ultimately, the City Council will decide how to respond to the shipyard’s request to use part of the Front Street parking lot and adjacent land.

In a notice to abutting property owners dated April 1, Marshall explained that the council is considering two proposals presented by the shipyard, with the first option involving the use of about 53,000 square feet of city property resulting in the elimination of about a quarter of the existing parking spaces in the lot. The second option would eliminate about half the spaces and use about 39,000 square feet of city property.

In exchange, the city will ask the shipyard to cut down the size of the new Building 1, which would be used for boat storage. Belfast would like to have a 30-foot strip of land near  the footbridge in order to provide better parking and landscaping, Marshall said.

On April 19, the council will hold a public hearing on the options and the larger question of whether it’s a good idea to lease or sell the land to the shipyard.

“This building is too big to fit on their property,” Marshall said Wednesday.

The proposed building would be about 55 feet tall and would include two “very large” bays where year-round work could be done on large vessels.

He said he’s expecting more public comments on the shore-based changes than the city received on the marine-based changes.

“This clearly is a long-term commitment of city property to a new company coming to town,” Marshall said.

As Front Street Shipyard works to develop its property, it is continuing to keep to the city’s requirement to have the planned coastal walkway go through the site.

Marshall said the developers have proposed building a boardwalk to route the walkway around the water side of two of the shipyard’s buildings that are going to be closest to the footbridge.

He described the speed of the project’s progress as “phenomenal.”

The company intends to keep that pace in order to convince clients that it will soon be a going concern, Turner told councilors.

“We want to show people that we can make it this summer,” he said. “We’ll be up and running. And we’ll be ready for fall, definitely.”

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