A petition signed by 55 Rockland residents supports a controversial plan to expand Yachting Solutions' marina in Rockland harbor.

The petition to the City Council was filed with the city manager Friday, April 6. Jim Leach submitted the petition to the city on behalf of the signatories. Former Mayor Will Clayton was among the people signing the document.

"We are in support of the City's efforts to improve the waterfront area at the Public Landing as per the conceptual plans, submitted by the Rockland Harbor Master and Yachting Solutions, pending such ratifications as may be adopted by the public hearing process," the petition states.

The petitioners state that they are particularly impressed with the planners' willingness to adjust based on constructive input.

The last city government meeting on the project was held Feb. 14, when 100 people turned out to hear about the proposal. The overwhelming number of speakers that evening voiced concern or outright opposition.

A group calling itself Sensible Harbor Infrastructure Plan (SHIP) was collecting signatures on a petition that evening. City officials say no petition has yet been filed by the group. A telephone message was left Monday afternoon, April 9, with SHIP organizer Christos Calivas of Rockland.

The petition from supporters of the project — who call themselves Citizens for a Progressive Rockland — explains the group's backing.

"We believe this project, should it come to fruition, will be a giant step toward establishing Rockland as a destination of significance, enhancing the community appearance and adding a great deal of overall community economic growth," the petition states.

The project is an excellent blend of public and private partnership, according to the residents who signed the petition.

"A project of this scope could be a catalyst for Rockland to be considered one of the top three progressive cities in Maine," according to the petition.

There are no meetings scheduled by the city on the proposal. City Manager Tom Luttrell said Monday there had been tentative dates set for a meeting with SHIP, but the group canceled before it was formally scheduled.

Concerns voiced by citizens at the Feb. 14 meeting included loss of access to part of the harbor, the loss of the southern channel, and the impact on the view from the public landing.

Yachting Solutions founder and Chief Executive Officer Bill Morong told people at that meeting that nothing was set in concrete and that the project was a concept.

Rockland City Attorney Mary Costigan said at the February meeting that agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and Bureau of Parks and Lands would take navigation issues into account when applications were submitted.

No application had been filed with the Bureau of Parks and Land for a submerged land lease as of April 9. An April 9 email to the Maine DEP on whether an application has been submitted was not immediately responded to by the state.

The first phase of the marina expansion includes added floats and pilings along the property owned by Rockland Harbor Park Inc. (where the boardwalk is located).

That part of the project had received state, federal and local approval in 2008, but the approvals have since expired without the work being done.

Yachting Solutions received a federal Boating Infrastructure Grant in July 2017. City Manager Tom Luttrell said city officials were contacted in October or early November about working with the developers on prior plans considered by the city for its waterfront facilities.

The plan was presented to the Harbor Management Commission in November.

The possible long-term plan calls for wave breakers that would offer protection for that section of the harbor. The wave breakers, however, would bisect the southern channel — a move that is strongly opposed by many residents and boat owners.

Another part of the plan would be to relocate the harbormaster's building to Buoy Park. Rockland Harbormaster Matthew Ripley said in February that for the building to be out of the floodplain it must be moved back at least 14 feet and raised three to four feet. Moving the building would allow the city to perform earthwork leading up to the public landing to eliminate a steep incline.

The boardwalk would be extended from next to the current location of the harbormaster's building to past the middle pier.

Ripley said there is considerable work needed on the city facilities, such as the bridge that goes from Harbor Park to the float. He said the city is more likely to get grants if it works with private partners.

Moving the dinghy dock to the north side of the middle pier would also address the problem of lack of access for boaters during events such as the Maine Lobster Festival; North Atlantic Blues Festival and Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors show, supporters of the plan pointed out.