GOULDSBORO — Housing for 24 employees at the Maine Fair Trade Lobster processing plant in Prospect Harbor was approved by the Planning Board Dec. 1.
The approval came after several residents expressed reservations about the location of the four mobile homes and worries about possible misbehavior by their new neighbors.
Despite the qualms, the board voted 4-0 to issue the permit with one member, Jeff Grant, abstaining.
Grant said he lives near the lot where the bunk houses will be located and remembers the days when employees from the former Stinson Seafood sardine plant were housed in a large home once located on the same lot.
The property is on a hill overlooking the sprawling, oceanfront processing facility.
Plant Manager Bill Darling said the company anticipates the housing will be temporary until alternate employee housing can be developed, but said there are no guarantees the mobile homes will be removed any time soon.
Maine Fair Trade Lobster, he said, is hoping a company or individual will become interested in constructing employee housing.
He said the housing is critical for the company’s plans to expand because of the high cost of renting houses and apartments in the area.
“It’s tough for a factory worker to live here,” Darling said. “It’s not affordable. I rent a house here and I pay $1,200 a month.”
He said the four mobile homes were used at the company’s lobster processing plant on Deer Island in New Brunswick, Canada, and became available because employees have since purchased or rented their own homes.
Alan Benson and Nancy Hill of Prospect Harbor said they are not abutters to the property, but their home is not far from the site.
They asked that the mobile homes be located closer, not farther, from the road to minimize any possible noise.
Darling said he would meet with the couple to discuss their concerns.
“Noise level was never a concern on Deer Isle,” he said. “You don’t ever know they’re there. They’re there to work.”
Bradley Lowell, who lives several houses up the hill from the site, said he recalls the days when Stinson’s workers would drink at a bar in Birch Harbor and stumble home, often landing on his relatives’ front lawns or bushes.
“I pulled four off my mother’s property,” said Lowell. “We’ve already had that experience. We don’t want to have it again.”
He asked if the employees who will be housed are U.S. citizens, adding that he is not prejudiced and has friends in Mexico and Panama.
Darling said currently the company is bringing up employees from the Portland area.
Darling said that although the current employees are U.S. citizens, he can’t guarantee Maine Fair Trade won’t bring in non-U.S. citizens in the future.
The company often used workers from the Philippines on Deer Island, he said, and many are now permanent residents with Canadian citizenship.
Lowell said the former Stinson employees also doubled up in the large house that once sat on the property and “destroyed” it.
The building has since been torn down.
“You say you are putting 24 people in there,” said Lowell. “We’re not going to walk by and see 55, are we?”
Darling said there will be 24 residents only and all will likely be single men.
He said the company plans to camouflage the structures with landscaping.