Belfast city officials debate allowing seafood processing company to add takeout window

Posted Jan. 08, 2014, at 7:01 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — A seafood processing and distribution company located in the Belfast Business Park was given a tentative OK Tuesday night by the Belfast City Council to add a takeout window to its existing location.

But the decision in favor of amending the city’s land use ordinance in favor of Maine Maritime Products’ request came after significant discussion about the definition of a restaurant. Restaurants currently are not allowed in the business park, located near U.S. Route 1. City Planner Wayne Marshall told the council at the regular meeting that he believes allowing a takeout window could set a bad precedent in the business park, which is designed to be a place to create jobs, not a place for hungry tourists to come for their lobster roll and fried clams. Members of the Belfast Planning Board recently split their vote on the amendment but a majority favored allowing the takeout window.

“Terms are very important to the Planning Board. It’s a restaurant,” Marshall said. “Our concern is of using this as a precedent — I’m not sure it’s a good idea to go there.”

But George Delaney, president of Maine Maritime Products, which distributes locally caught fish and also sells some prepared, frozen seafood in a retail shop at the business park location, gave an impassioned plea to the council. He said that he’s been working on getting the city’s permission to diversify his business structure since the fall and that he doesn’t necessarily agree that a takeout window constitutes a restaurant. He certainly didn’t agree it will set a bad precedent.

“We’re not asking for a sit-down restaurant,” he said to the councilors, who heard his request after 9 p.m. “We think it will work. We think the people who live here and drive through here will love it. You guys will love it. We may even extend our hours for these later meetings.”

Delaney said that local fishermen and related businesses are in “pure survival mode” and his takeout window is a bid to help his company make more money, as councilors debated the move.

“I understand the need to expand revenue streams,” Councilor Mary Mortier said. “I’m not in favor of picnic tables outside, but I do, however, think that if you’re already selling frozen seafood bisque, there’s not a stretch [to the takeout window.]”

Councilor Mike Hurley agreed that another seafood takeout window wouldn’t be problematic in Belfast.

“I just don’t see that precedent as such a dangerous thing,” he said.

In other news, councilors accepted the Harbor Committee’s recommendations for 2014 harbor usage fees, with the exception of a proposed new $60 per vessel fee to store a canoe, kayak or other small boat on the racks near the Belfast Boathouse. The councilors thought that the fee for smaller vessels was too high and they requested that the committee revisit the issue to lower the amount.

“To be down on the beach with a kayak or canoe, that’s real inexpensive recreation,” Mayor Walter Ash said. “It just seems to me we’re taking more and more away from the local people who pay their property taxes in Belfast.”

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