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November 30, 2018

Preservationists sound alarm over Boothbay Harbor demolitions

Courtesy / Maine Preservation
Courtesy / Maine Preservation
Boothbay Harbor's working waterfront is included in Maine Preservation's 20th list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Maine, which was released on Tuesday.

Sixteen buildings have been demolished in Boothbay Harbor in the last two years, prompting Maine Preservation to ask the town to take a closer look at how it's managing historic and cultural resources.

The Boothbay Register reported that the Yarmouth-based nonprofit recommended to the town's board of selectmen that the town update its comprehensive plan to address cultural resources, conduct a townwide survey of historic neighborhoods and develop a local historic district ordinance once the survey is complete.

Maine Preservation's Field Service Advisor Chris Closs said historic buildings placed on the National Register of Historic Places represent economic opportunity. In addition, the working waterfront is an important heritage issue supporting employment like fishing, said Maine Preservation Executive Director Greg Paxton.

According to an Oct. 30 post on Maine Preservation's blog, only 20 miles of Maine's 5,300 miles of mainland and island shoreline are still considered working waterfront used to support commercial fishing. "Management of what's left of the state's historic working waterfront is critical to Maine's future economy and to our cultural history," the post says.

The post cites Boothbay Harbor as a prime example: A Maritime District established 30 years ago on the east side of the harbor comprises less than 1% of the land area in the town, yet houses three of the four wholesale and retail lobstering businesses serving more than 60 lobstermen. But a rezoning proposal would transform 77% of the Maritime District into a Limited Commercial District, allowing for hotels, recreational marinas and housing.

"This zoning change would open a key stretch of working waterfront to economic pressures that could forever alter the historic character of this area, and significantly impact the viability of marine-based industries in Boothbay Harbor," the post says.

In 2017, one of the buildings demolished was Romar Bowling Lanes, an iconic landmark built in 1928 and near Boothbay Harbor's waterfront, the Boothbay Register reported at the time.

Earlier this year, developer Paul Coulombe, owner of the Boothbay Harbor Country Club and Oceanside Golf Resort, completed the redevelopments of two residential properties in downtown Boothbay Harbor into upscale rentals. Last December, Coulombe's interest in two properties on the marine-oriented east side of Boothbay Harbor sparked public debate over whether the town should allow mixed uses like food and hospitality businesses there.

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