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December 18, 2017

Boothbay Harbor weighs mixed-use zoning changes in traditional maritime zone

A proposal to allow mixed uses like food and hospitality businesses on the marine-oriented east side of Boothbay Harbor is sparking spirited public debate, all the more so because of the interest developer Paul Coulombe has shown in two properties on that side of the harbor.

The Boothbay Register reported the Planning Board's Dec. 13 discussion attended by 130 people arose from investor/developer Paul Coulombe's plans, which he has since backed out of, to invest in two east side properties.

Since withdrawing his offers on two properties in mid-November, expressing frustration in his dealings with town officials, Coulombe has gained some allies. Julie Roberts, owner of Coastal Maine Popcorn, has formed a new group called "People for Positive Change" whose 200-plus members agree that change is necessary, Roberts told the newspaper.

Dan Bacon of Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers represented Coulombe, who could not attend the meeting, outlined "high-level goals" his client supported for the east side zoning, the newspaper reported. "We advocate for more of a mixed-use allowance that would allow hotels, motels and inns that already currently exist, to allow for potentially some multi-family housing," Bacon said.

Planning Board Chairman Tom Churchill said the board would form a work group to review the marine and water-dependent zone for possible changes.

Most speakers aired their support for change. But Carousel Marina former owner Norm Pierce expressed skepticism.

"There's a lot about the east side of the harbor Paul Coulombe doesn't understand," said Pierce, pointing out, for example, that a conceptual drawing shows that in order for lobstermen and sailors to access the docks, they would have to walk through the lobby of a proposed building.

Douglas Carter, who cited his involvement in the lobster industry over the years, disagreed, saying, "Paul Coulombe is interested in what happens to the fishermen."

Interviewed by phone, Coulombe told the paper he received numerous positive emails, calls and texts following the meeting.

A special Planning Board work group is scheduled to meet on Dec. 20 to continue the discussion over possibly amending the marine and water-dependent zone to allow currently non-conforming uses.

In November, the Boothbay Register reported that Coulombe, owner of the Boothbay Harbor Country Club, Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Golf Resort and other properties in Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor, pulled out of further business dealings in Boothbay Harbor and canceled closing on a local motel after an informal meeting with local citizens. His original proposals included hotels, restaurants and a new public pier.

"There's a great need to revitalize the eastern side of the harbor," Coulombe told the newspaper by email at that time. He continued, "I have become extremely frustrated with the planning board and selectmen of Boothbay Harbor."

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