Jimmy Stevens guides barrels of gray sole and monkfish up and out of the hold on the Tara Lynne II on Jan. 18, 21 at the Portland Fish Exchange in Portland. Mayor Michael Brennan wants locals to eat more fish from the Gulf of Maine. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Portland city leaders are considering a 180-day moratorium on non-marine development along a key stretch of the waterfront after local fishermen began rallying support for a more permanent ban.

A group led by local fishermen says non-marine development on and around the city’s piers has squeezed out the working waterfront, limiting space and obstructing business for uses like commercial fishing.

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The group began collecting signatures last month in support of a referendum that would seek to reinstate a requirement that all new projects in the waterfront zone be water-dependent, a rule that would effectively block hotels, restaurants and offices, the likes of which have proliferated in the area in recent decades.

On Tuesday afternoon, city officials announced they will propose a temporary ban on new non-marine development in the Central Waterfront Zoning District in an effort to buy time to work with the fishermen’s group to find solutions to their problems.

Waterfront restaurant owner Steve DiMillo and wharf owner Charlie Poole said in statements released by the city that a water-dependent requirement could undermine their ability to raise revenues for necessary pier maintenance.

“The city of Portland fully supports, and will always support, the working waterfront,” said City Manager Jon Jennings in a statement.

“I appreciate the willingness of the fishing community and the pier owners to work with us to address the core issues to ensure the working waterfront exists for all future generations,” he continued. “This moratorium will allow the city and the stakeholders the necessary time to address these concerns in a thoughtful and balanced way. It’s our belief that we can both address the concerns of the fishing industry and at the same time develop policies that are good for all of Portland.”

The moratorium will be on the City Council’s Dec. 17 meeting agenda. Jennings’ staff is requesting that a second reading of the item be waived and the moratorium passed that night as an emergency measure.

[Portland fishermen launch petition to restrict development on the waterfront]

In 1987, a local referendum passed requiring water-dependent uses in the zone to protect the working waterfront, but the protections have been weakened in the decades since then to accommodate various projects and developments.

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.