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UPDATED: Rockland, Yachting Solutions say public will have say on harbor projects

By Stephen Betts | Feb 14, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Steve Hale, owner of the Captain Jack touring lobster boat, speaks Wednesday night, Feb. 14, before the Rockland City Council on the proposed marina expansion by Yachting Solutions.

Rockland — The City Council and community will have a say in the proposal to expand a marina and in the long-range plan to overhaul Rockland's waterfront facilities, city and Yachting Solutions Inc. officials said.

A Wednesday night, Feb. 14, City Council meeting to formally present the Yachting Solutions proposal attracted 100 people. The overwhelming number of speakers voiced concerns about the project.

But Yachting Solutions founder and Chief Executive Officer Bill Morong said that nothing was set in concrete and that the project was a concept.

"At this point, they're only lines on paper," Morong said of the plans.

Morong, engineer Michael Sabatini, and Harbormaster Matt Ripley discussed the genesis of the expansion project and talks about potential long-term changes on the waterfront.

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

Rockland City Attorney Mary Costigan said 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.

The first phase of the marina expansion includes added floats and pilings along the property owned by Rockland Harbor Park Inc.

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.

Last year, Yachting Solutions applied and received a federal grant to help pay for the first phase of the expansion.

Morong said Stuart Smith, a partner in Rockland Harbor Park, which owns the property where Yachting Solution leases, approached him about trying to work with the city on plans it had developed for possible revamping of its harborfront facilities.

Rockland Mayor Valli Geiger said the city knew nothing of the grant until the company received it in November. That is when the company approached the city to discuss potential cooperation on other harbor improvements.

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

Yachting Solutions received a federal Boating Infrastructure Grant in July. City Manager Tom Luttrell said Thursday that city officials were contacted in October or early November about the grant.

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. Ripley said for the building to be out of the floodplain it needs to 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.

Sabatini said moving the dinghy dock to the north side of the middle pier would 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.

Morong repeatedly stressed that the meeting was held to gather comments from the public.

Sabatini made reference to that.

"We've heard loud and clear that you don't want this to affect the south channel. How can we work around this?" Sabatini said.

Morong said the project would benefit marine businesses in the community by bringing in large yachts that would require services. He made reference to the city seal, which includes the motto "God gives a reward to industry."

City Manager Tom Luttrell said the plan could allow the city to increase the number of slips at the public landing and generate more revenues. He also cited the benefit of extending the boardwalk. He said Rockland Harbor Park is also willing to cut back shrubs that some neighbors have said block their views of the harbor.

Luttrell has previously stressed that no work on city facilities would occur unless the city obtained grants.

The city had Rockport Planning Board Chair John Alexander serve as facilitator for the latter part of the meeting. He wrote down questions posed by the public and said city officials and company officials would answer those questions.

Luttrell said other meetings would be held at which the questions would be answered.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, however, concern and opposition were voiced about parts of the plan.

Steve Hale, owner and operator of the Captain Jack touring lobster boat, said the plan was privatizing that part of the harbor.

Joseph Steinberger, a former city councilor, said this was a threat to the character of the community. He said the City Council had a voice in the matter, because the federal government will not go along with the elimination of a channel if the city opposes it.

The wave breakers would also result in the relocation of numerous moorings.

Debbie Atwell said the proposal was a greater threat to the harbor than the proposals years ago by the Samoset Resort to build a marina alongside the Rockland Breakwater.

The Maine DEP rejected the Samoset's proposed pier, citing the impact on scenic and aesthetic uses.

A citizens group had petitions at the meeting to be presented to the city council, state and federal agencies to oppose what it maintains is an unreasonable development. People can contact petitioners by mailing to SHIP (Sensible Harbor Infrastructure Plan), 7 Laurel St, Rockland, Maine.

No date has been scheduled for the next meeting on the subject.

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Comments (8)
Posted by: Christopher Allen | Feb 15, 2018 22:00

Thank you for your initiative Mayor Geiger.  There are many complex issues involved in the proposed Yachting Solutions marina expansion.  The issue of federal vs state vs municipal authority in our harbor requires study.

A good start to gain understanding of  Rockland's authority over our mooring channel and mooring fields is Maine Statute Title 38: Waters and Navigation, Section 2 Rules for channel lines;enforcement. It states, Municipal officers of all maritime towns...may make rules and regulations to keep open channels, and may establish the boundary lines of those channels and assign suitable portions of their harbor for anchorages.

The next place to look is the Rockland Code, Chapter 9 Harbor and Waterfront Facilities and Management, Section 9-202 Channels. It describes our official municipal channel emplaced by ordinance: A channel from the area of the Rockland Public Landing, running due east (090T) for a distance of 400 yards and a width of 80 feet to facilitate movement of vessels through the central harbor mooring areas. This channel is not marked by aids to navigation. It is displayed on the mooring area chart maintained by the City of Rockland.

Other levers of local influence are found within the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps. of Engineers permitting processes and the Maine Submerged Lands Office lease application rules.. Also, Maine is a home rule state granting much authority to local governments to determine their futures, especially the futures of maritime communities like Rockland.

Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Feb 15, 2018 20:45

You are right. I just googled Yachting Solutions and the BIG grant and see that it was carried in the Free Press in July. I first read about it in the Free Press 11/30/17 story. My apologies.

Valli Geiger

Posted by: Christopher Allen | Feb 15, 2018 17:58

The announcement that Yachting Solutions received a federal BIG grant for over $1M was covered by the press in JULY : www.   The reports were based on a press release sent out by Senator Chellie Pingree's Office in July.

During last night's meeting Mayor Geiger stated that YS was awarded an $800,000 grant in November.  Clearly someone has misinformed our Mayor, yet both YS and the City allowed this misinformation to stand uncorrected during the meeting.

The Mayor also stated that the YS plan for their marina expansion and our municipal infrastructure was developed by a group, including the Harbor Management Commission.  The Inner Harbor Master Plan was presented to the HMC in November and was the first time they had seen it.  Again, someone has misinformed our Mayor about this project.


Posted by: David E Myslabodski | Feb 15, 2018 14:00

Hi There George Terrien,

Thanks for your post.

"And absent such trust, I suspect that moving forward on the project will be difficult, even in greatly reduced scope (a possible tactic as an anticipated "compromise") to "negotiate" approval in a collective sigh of relief that something that threatens the scale of our little city will have been diminished."


Negotiating a reduced scope, say you. Thanks but no thanks. Been there done that.


Remember 250 Main St Hotel? There was strong opposition from the neighbors so the developer and city hall concocted a compromise and “removed” the top floor. I remember that the next day the “height moratorium” ended, the top floor was re-approved.


I was present at the approval meeting and distinctly remember members of the commission talking about the top floor as always been part of the plan


City council [aka Ali-Baba and the Forty Developers] has shown time and again that The People cannot trust them.

Posted by: Lynne A Barnard | Feb 15, 2018 10:11

Mr. Betts fails to mention the announcement last night of a group of concerned citizens who have banded together and named their group SHIP (Sensible Harbor Infrastructure Plan). They have structured a very thoughtfully worded petition which was circulated at the meeting last night and will be offered publicly at the various usual locations around town in the coming weeks -- the Post Office, the dump, at Hannaford's, etc.  Also, extra copies are available so you too can collect signatures if you mail a request to SHIP, 7 Laurel St., Rockland, Maine 04841.  Perhaps this newspaper would be kind enough to publish it soon.  Another note of concern is that there is a Presentation to be given by the Coast Guard on Tuesday, 20 February at 6:00pm at the Harbor Master's office (or possibly City Council Chambers) regarding the Federal Anchorage at Broad Cove for two more anchorages for mega cruise ships.  This means we could have 3 of the behemoths at once in the outer harbor.  Please try to come to that meeting.  It is open to the public.  Thank you.

Posted by: George Terrien | Feb 15, 2018 10:06

Several times I heard last night that the so-called BIG proposal was a "done deal" and that its conclusion, with funding obtained, was NOT up for discussion.  All approvals had been obtained in 2008, I heard.  But later in the evening, and as reported by Mr. Betts above, we learned in response to a direct question that these approvals had in fact lapsed, raising at least the question as to whether the BIG proposal, though perhaps once a "done deal" was still up for approvals, as though it had never been proposed.  I wonder whether that information would have been revealed in the follow up to Mr. Morong's TED talk.  Did the November recent awarding and public announcement (to the surprise of many people) of the major federal grant also presume that the approvals were a "done deal"?  Among many other questions, I also wonder if members of the Council, including the former Harbor Master and the Mayor and the Manager, had known that the apparently lapsed approvals would need to be renewed.

Would such renewal go back to the beginning of the approval process, or does it constitute no more than a clerical filing and the signature of a distant bureaucrat?

I hope, Mr. Betts, that you will apply your investigative acumen to answering this preceding question.  And I would like to know, in the same way that such questions are raised on our national stage, who knew what and when among those whom I heard assert repeatedly last night that the pink BIG area on the map really is such a "done deal."  Maybe it's not in the pink after all--something the citizens (and voters) of the City should also know.

I hope to come away with the feeling that all parties are truly being open with each other.  I think most people in the room last night, at least in the audience, require such confidence.  And absent such trust, I suspect that moving forward on the project will be difficult, even in greatly reduced scope (a possible tactic as an anticipated "compromise") to "negotiate" approval in a collective sigh of relief that something that threatens the scale of our little city will have been diminished.

If last night's proposal offers a master plan for the center of our harbor and its edges, should not the hotel that was planned along the boardwalk between the Gazebo and the building formerly known as Boston Financial be shown?  With an overlap of interests between the Yachting Solutions and the developer of that hotel, its prospect is not likely to be news for any of the parties.

Presumably, the trees along the boardwalk described by Mr. Morong to be cut back would also benefit views from the new hotel, though not from Ocean Street and the residential areas behind, or looking north along Scott and Pacific Streets, two favorite views identified over the years by many residents, and, I imagine, visitors.  Or, perhaps, the construction of the hotel would remove the trees entirely.

Yes, many items and questions to review....

Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Feb 15, 2018 06:22

There is a deed restriction that protects the view where some of the cedars are. The parcel on Ocean Street was deeded such that the view remain open to the residents. Fisher Engineering had to meet the restriction and suddenly it will be a gift in exchange for all that glitters.

Posted by: David E Myslabodski | Feb 14, 2018 23:53

Hopefully The People will band together and defeat this little monster.

A pig with lipstick a pig remains. Whichever way the project is presented, the goal is to privatize the southern part of the harbor for the exclusive benefit of the 1%.

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