GOULDSBORO — Some neighboring residents and landowners are calling for town officials to reconsider a proposed small shellfish lab on a town-owned, 3/4-acre parcel on Prospect Harbor’s eastern shore.
Located off the Lighthouse Road, the project would require the land be rezoned commercial fisheries and maritime and would entail construction of a shed where baby clams would overwinter in an indoor seawater tank and be used to re-seed local flats in spring. The proposed shoreland zoning change is the focus of a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, at the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club.
In a July 16 letter to the town, abutting property owners and more than 50 other citizens urged Gouldsboro Town Manager Andrea Sirois and the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board not to back the ordinance zoning amendments that would pave the way for the shellfish committee’s clam restoration project. The plan is to use the town’s tax-acquired parcel to build an 8-by-10-foot wood-frame shed to house the tank and a small parking area. The narrow woodlot currently lies in a limited residential area.
Evolving over several years, the clam restoration project is a collaboration between the shellfish committee, Schoodic Institute, Regional School Unit 24, the Maine Department of Marine Resources and Beals Island’s Downeast Institute.
In their letter, the proposed rezoning’s opponents noted that the narrow woodlot currently serves as a windbreak between the Lighthouse Road residential properties and that buffer’s reduction could make the three abutters’ structures and shorefront more exposed to periodic 60-to-70-mph winds and blow-downs. They pointed out the lot is a known nesting habitat for rare migrating birds. They objected to a long intake pipeline being installed across the tidal flats to regularly supply fresh seawater to the shellfish resilience lab’s tank.
In addition, critics questioned whether the Lighthouse Road property was big enough to create a graded commercial-load driveway with drainage and turn-round for as many as six vehicles. They expressed concern such a road could cause extensive runoff and result in damage to abutters’ properties. Zoning the woodlot commercial, they further asserted, would diminish property values and Gouldsboro’s shoreland property tax base.
They questioned why Prospect Harbor’s commercially developed western shore, where the public pier is located and accesses deep water, wasn’t being considered as a more suitable site.
“One can easily imagine an engaging and productive facility, which could be celebrated and appreciated by all full-time and seasonal residents as well as tourists,” the July 16 letter said. “This commercial and educational endeavor could fit without doing any damage to our small woodland/shoreline lots. Utilizing an existing facility on deep water would significantly lessen the environmental impact on our harbor and neighboring shore land.”
Since 2017, Schoodic Institute Education Research Director Bill Zoellick and Education Specialist Sarah Hooper and Maine Department of Marine Resources scientist Heidi Leighton have worked closely with Sumner Memorial High School’s Pathways program in enlisting students to sow seed clams, measure and compare their growth with wild shellfish and experiment with different devices to curb invasive predators such as green crabs and ribbon worms threatening Maine’s clam industry. The students presented their findings at the 2018 Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland.
Last fall, Gouldsboro selectmen endorsed the group’s clam restoration project. The students helped design the proposed shellfish resilience lab and made a final presentation that won support from Gouldsboro Shellfish Warden Mike Pinkham and DMR scientist Heidi Leighton this past spring. To fund the project, the project’s partners earlier this summer won a $20,000 Broad Reach Fund grant from the Maine Shellfish Restoration and Resilience Project as well as another $7,800 grant, also administered by Maine Community Foundation.
For those who cannot attend on Aug. 11, the Planning Board’s public hearing will be live-streamed via Zoom. The meeting ID No. will be 813 0700 9966, and the password is 253443. The link also will be posted on the Gouldsboro Police Department Facebook page.
Pending the Aug 11 hearing, the Planning Board will decide whether to recommend passage of the warrant articles for voters’ consideration at annual Town Meeting, which has been tentatively set for Aug. 26 in the Peninsula School gym in Prospect Harbor.
To further inform the public, the Gouldsboro Shellfish Committee will hold an informational meeting about the clam project at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, at the Gouldsboro Community Center on the Pond Road (Route 195). To attend the meeting online via Zoom, the meeting ID No. is 8417215, and the password is 737262b.