Photo by Stephen Betts

ROCKLAND — The Tribe that owns the landmark former grain silos on Rockland’s South End waterfront will be meeting within a month to discuss potential development of the property.

Craig Francis, the attorney for the Passamaquoddy Tribe, spoke before the Rockland City Council at its Monday night, Nov. 14 meeting on a proposed zone change that includes the Tribe’s property.

Outgoing Mayor Ed Glaser authored the proposed zone change that would require that uses on the land be largely marine dependent. The current zoning allows hotels and motels.

Attorney Francis said the zone change would “materially impact” what can be developed and that it would negatively impact the value of the land if the Tribe was to sell. The Tribal Council will meet in a month to discuss potential development options.

He said one of the two grain silos (the cylindrical one) looks in good shape but the other is not in good shape.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf proposed an amendment to the proposed zone change that would remove the Tribe’s land from the change. The Council voted 4-1 with Glaser opposed to remove that land from the proposed zone change.

The overall zone change was then rejected 4-1 with Councilor Sarah Austin voting to support the amended measure.

Glaser said Rockland has a strong interest in keeping its limited working waterfront land. Residential on that stretch of the waterfront would be a terrible idea for Rockland, he said. He suggested the city meet with the Tribe to discuss potential development.

Councilor MacLellan-Ruf said this was a moral and ethical matter. She said the Tribe owns the land and should be able to use the land for what it wants. She said Native American tribes have been treated incredibly poorly.

Councilor Nicole Kalloch questioned why the Council was even considering a zone change without first talking to the property owners.

The grain silos are owned by the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Passamaquoddy Wild Blueberry Co. of Columbia Falls. They bought the property in 1985.

The silos were built in 1966 as part of a much larger planned economic development project to revitalize the South End waterfront, according to author John Bird’s history book “Rockland, Maine: Rise and Renewal.” The developer and investors had hoped to provide grain for the region’s poultry farms and attract a Canadian ferry to make regular stops in Rockland. The silos were built in 1966 but received only one shipload of grain.

Railroads lowered their shipping rates for grain, which undercut the Rockland plan in which grain was going to be brought in by sea. The government of Nova Scotia selected Bar Harbor for the ferry terminal.

Since then, the silos have been unused.

The Tribe bought the property in 1985.

In September 2005, representatives of the Tribe met with the Rockland City Council to discuss a plan to create a cultural center, retail store and luxury condominiums on the waterfront. The cement silos were to be used as residences. In November of that year, the City Council approved a zone change to allow residences in the waterfront zone.

Tribal officials and representatives of Jesse Wheeler LLC, the property developer, said in 2005 the zone change was the first step in a long building process. The pair envisioned 15 condominiums and a cultural center, retail store and café inside the two cement silos.

Lawyers for Dragon Products, the silos’ neighbor to the north, and Rockland Marine Corp., the neighbor to the south, asked in 2005 for the Council to deny the zone change and avoid injecting a residential development amid industry.

Architectural plans were developed but the project never gained traction.

The property is assessed by the city at $389,500.